Here and Now, Five Questions for Eileen Tabios; Renzetti, Lee, Campbell, Ansari, Kids + Pottery, Surendra, WDR Funkhausorchester, Gardner, Grönemeyer, Iglesias & Okada, MAD and McPherson
HERE AND NOW
Wow, how did I get to 70 issues? I guess I just showed up.
Eileen R. Tabios may be the first poet I met online in the early, heady days of blogging (supported by the appearance of Blogger and Wordpress) soon after 2000. Through Eileen and other experimental writers encountered online and in person, I felt I was entering a new world of communication and experimentalism. Her work is always an inspiration, and she remains the most prolific and inventive writer I know.
SIX FIVE QUESTIONS FOR EILEEN R. TABIOS
1.What’s your creative process like?
I’ve written and write in a wide variety of styles and genres. I’ve most recently turned much of my focus to the long-form novel, so I’ll discuss the creative process that form requires from me. My first novel, DOVELION, was released in 2021 from AC Books (New York). But I’m in the middle of my second novel (first draft finished but requires editing) and third novel (still in progress). Most of my work, as you know, has been with poetry. But novels—or the ones I’m working on—have immensely larger scale, not only in terms of length but in terms of multiplicity of narrative elements. I unexpectedly discovered that having doll-avatars for my novel’s characters and placing them on my writing desk as well as throughout my writing studio gives me a psychological infrastructure for maintaining my focus on novel-writing.
They started out with used Barbie dolls from Ebay to which I gave a second life. Then I ended up using other 12-inch high dolls like those from Munster High, Disney, and the GI Joe series. Wow! Those GI Joes can get expensive! But I needed them for characters that were doing spy missions in some of the world’s trouble spots like the Middle East and, more recently to reflect recent events, Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.
It can get funny because if I’m doing something else on my writing desk that’s not based on continuing my work on the novel, I feel someone’s gaze on me, chiding or haranguing me to continue working on it. I look towards that felt gaze and it’s coming from one of the doll-avatars. They’re particularly grumpy when I binge on online Asian dramas.
2. What puts a damper on your creativity? What do you do—if anything—to remedy that?
It used to be the distraction of Netflix or YouTube bingeing. I’m addicted. But I found a way to make the bingeing work on behalf of the novel—I allow them to influence my current big project which is a third novel-in-progress. That novel, originally about spies (both CIA and mercenaries) became a romance of such spies. From Asian dramas, usually romances, I remind myself of “first love” and/or “first romantic encounter” emotions and often paraphrase the cheesiness that comes from such. To combine romance with murderous spy missions is not easy to pull-off when I come from a place of loathing such spy missions which, among other things, have encouraged dictators and invaders/colonizers. But that challenge is precisely why I’m sticking to that goal (which I made more complicated by attempting not just a romance but a rom-com or romance-comedy). My training as a poet is to connect elements that initially would seem to have nothing to do with each other—I’m applying this approach to the novel.
3. Does age factor into your creative process, and if yes, how?
Yes. As I posted recently in one of my most-liked Facebook posts, “the problem of entering the 6th decade is that death is no longer unimaginable.” This means I’m aware that any project I do from hereon may well be the last. And that actually means I’m shortening the drafting process. My first novel went through a large number of drafts over years. Recently, I finished the first draft of my second novel in less than a year. And I’m now in the middle of writing my third novel. My third novel is not going as quickly as the second, but what I notice is that I’m pushing the writing quality to be at a higher level than I did for the first and second novels, presumably in the hopes that it will lessen future editing process and draft revisions.
Also, age—I’m now 61—has made me more aware of choosing projects that are meaningful. They can still be fun, but fun no longer suffices. Or at least, fun doesn’t suffice for my sixties. When I’m more weakened as I get into my 80s and beyond, fun might more than suffice for any action’s motivation, whether or not it’s writing.
4.What are you working on, currently, and what’s inspiring it?
My second and third novels. I think they create a trilogy that began with my first novel, DOVELION. I knew I’d write a sequel because Part 3 of DOVELION lends itself to more exploration. I didn’t realize I’d go so far as a trilogy. The irony is that the trilogy doesn’t explore and expand DOVELION’s third part—it seems that particular sequel might be its own stand-alone novel. If so, that would mean a 4th novel in the future.
5.What’s your favorite imperfection?
Most of my projects have a cerebral underpinning. So I’m always interested in what heightens emotional content—I consider it a way to give metaphorical heart to intellect, to make my personas more attuned with the reality of humans.
It used to be that I relied on jokes for that element of humanity. But as my husband has said more than once, apparently, when it comes to my sense of humor I’m my biggest fan. It didn’t help that, for a period of time, I dabbled on making obscene jokes—but I kept pissing off people. So I turned to sentimentality. I don’t even judge the verses now on commercial greeting cards. Thus, my favorite imperfection is sentimentality—it makes me more human instead of more machine.
Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In 2022 she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and her second French book, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin). Her 2021 books include her first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times and first French book La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery). Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed; and a first poetry book, Beyond Life Sentences, which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry. Translated into 11 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information at https://eileenrtabios.com
Doll artist Alissa Renzetti goes for the surreal (some of her dolls are scary!):
Barry Lee is an artist who was born with the rare “Nager Syndrome.” In his article, “On Accepting Love, After Receiving Performative Care,” Lee discusses how individualism, community, and performative care affect him as a Disabled person. His newsletter is Barry Lee Art.
This is cute. Kids learning to create pottery with a potter on HiHo Kids (I want to try making pottery with a potter!):
You may remember Rajiv Surendra as the “math nerd” in the film Mean Girls. Well, he’s an amazing artist/crafter. Here he shows us how to appreciate the physical form of books and how to bind them. But first, he reads from his book about Agnes the cat:
Spies and more spies and the music that makes spy films compelling:
Taimane Gardner plays a medley featuring Tico Tico and themes from James Bond and Mission Impossible:
While the James Bond themes are all about high drama and spectacle, the themes that accompany films adapted from John le Carré spy novels have a much different feel, always a sense of melancholy and secrecy. Here is the opening theme, by Herbert Grönemeyer, for the film A Most Wanted Man, adapted from the novel by le Carré:
Finally, Eileen Tabios’s responses to the Five Questions reminded me that dolls can provide inspiration, comfort, or whatever you need them for, and these two Dunny dolls (think “devil bunny” with tubular ears), by MAD and Tara McPherson, are above the doorway in my house as protector spirits.
More next Saturday. Be safe and protected . . .
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