Thursday, April 05, 2018

Murder Death Resurrection A Poetry Generator by Eileen R. Tabios

Murder Death Resurrection
A Poetry Generator
by Eileen R. Tabios
Copyright 2018 by Eileen R. Tabios
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, OH
ISBN 978-1-939929-99-0    
Softbound, 157 pages including notes & acknowledgements, no price given

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

If someone could wave a magic wand and give you the ability to write poems endlessly would you accept the offer?  

Nationally known poet Eileen R. Tabios has created the nearest thing to the magic wand, in her book Murder Death Resurrection or MDR.

This book belongs to everyone, every poet in particular because Ms. Tabios has given poets a base of 1,167 lines any combination of which may comprise a poem. Take for example lines 367, 521 and 1078:

I forgot the Bengal Tiger mimicking a helicopter’s dance                            (367)
I forgot fallen olives discarded from those awaiting virgin pressings    (521)
I forgot the difficulty of ethics: how to rationalize when
what is good does not give an advantage in a world you define
as alley? (“Can you stop running if the monster does not stop
chasing?”)                                                                                                  (1,078)

Perhaps another poet would prefer to delete the first two words, “I forgot” as if it were just a two line poem.  I personally do not believe one line can make a poem and by that I do not mean a 5, 8 or 10 line sentence is one line.  I simply mean one line.

But I digress. One can take the three lines change their positions, remove “I Forgot” and each will produce a three line poem.

The genius of Ms. Tabios is that she shows that this can be done with any – or as many – of the lines as one wishes.  Even a 1,167 line poem is as possible as a 20 or 40 line poem or a five or ten line poem.

Ms. Tabios states it thusly, “The MDR Poetry generator’s conceit is that any combination of its 1,167 lines succeeding creating a poem.  Thus one can create – generate – news poems unthinkingly from its database.”

It is not conceit but genius to have created the generator.  It is not an unthinking effort.   Reading and selecting the lines to be used is truly a thinking process which makes the MDR even more fascinating and worthwhile.
Joseph Conrad did not learn English until the age of 29 and yet wrote some of the best novels in the language. Ms. Tabios, a Filipina, has in turn manipulated English to suit her needs resulting in a poet who is one of America’s leading experimental/abstract poets as evinced by her many books – more than 50 that encompass poetry, fiction, essays and experimental biographies. 

Here is a poem I created from chained (successive) lines from the MDR, deleting the opening “I Forgot” and using lines 231-234 the following emerged:

I defined empathy through a bent spine craving
for an ellipsis bulging to imply arrival, not departure or division.

The salty pleasure of sister elongating pink necks
to snag spotlights beamed from men experienced in the utter
aliveness of dying

Painting a floor red with my hair. I forgot back-
ing myself into a corner: when you appeared to grasp my
throat, your greedy footprints completed my painting.

Whispering “Stop heavy. No such thing as a sonofabitch in turning art into flesh”

Often creating a poem will express opposites or twins, depending on how the words are used, but they will always create poems.

Finally, at the back of the book is a useful “Teaching Guide & A Workshop Suggestion” which includes study questions for those who teach or would like to teach poetry using Ms. Tabios’ system.

Writer’s block is a malady many writers encounter, and this book will assure poets in particular as well as writers of short stories and novels that they will be able to continue unblocked.

Zvi A. Sesling
Author: The Lynching of Leo Frank, Love Poems From Hell, Fire Tongue, Across Stones of Bad Dreams, King of the Jungle.
Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Bagel Bards Anthologies Nos. 7, 8 and #12.
Publisher, Muddy River Books