Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Silk Egg by Eileen R. Tabios

Silk Egg
by Eileen R. Tabios
Shearsman Books
Exeter Books
Copyright © Eileen R. Tabios, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84861-143-1
Softbound, 131 pages, $17

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Some poets just slap you across the face and say, “Here is something new, find it exciting or not, conventional or not, I have written for those who understand and those who do not will come to understand.” There have been more than a few American poets who slapped faces with their “new” poetry. Walt Whitman, was certainly one. The Imagists, Objectivists and the Beats were among the more notable. There are other poets as well who have changed the way we read and write poetry, who have gone one step beyond.

Now along comes Eileen R. Tabios – actually she is not just coming along – she has been
around for a while having “released 18 print, 4 electronic and 1 CD poetry collections, an art-essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, a short story book and a collection of novels.”* For these efforts she has received numerous awards and grants and is well known on the west coast, if not the entire country. She also founded Meritage House, a multi-disciplinary literary and arts press based in San Francisco and St. Helena CA.

Ms. Tabios’ “slap” didn’t start with the title, it began when I opened the book of “novels.” Each chapter is a self contained novel and novels making up what I would call the total novel. In other words the sum is as great as the parts, the parts necessary for the sum. I personally had not seen this before, though Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke employs a similar concept, though not as creative or unique as Ms. Tabios.

As I read through Silk Egg different thoughts flashed across my mind: art deco, a punch of noir, of corrupted romance novels or sharp detective stories – in other words the writing of the 1930s or 1940s. However, while the writing has a retro appearance, it is thoroughly modern, maybe ahead of its time. Definitely captivating and ground breaking.

Ms. Tabios writes images that make wish I had thought of them, lines that make think and stories that leave me wondering (or in wonder):

Pg. 15: Look where the window finally stops.
“Sky is better than aspirin.”

Pg. 41: Red velvet petals. On one a wet diamond.
Her shears also sliced the sun.
Six roses fell. All revealed red cracking into mother-of-
London seemed even more distant that day.

Pg. 81 Whenever surf broke and water pock-marked air, she
recalled Helen – the much-maligned Helen.
Surf broke to reveal pale ankles bound by thin strips of
gold-painted leather.

These are just three examples. You may find others far more mysterious, elusive or exciting. Ms. Tabios is a writer who is in control, knows her trade is whether its is
Silk Egg or one of her others volumes, she is a writer who is worth a long, slow read and then a re-read.

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