Manila International Airport in the late 70s looked, ostensibly, like a Sarasota Modern—simple, horizontal. Lodged near Manila Bay, it was a confluence of homecomings, as well as a juncture for the bereft and left behind. Like the little girl waving goodbye to her mariner father. It would be decades before she would begin to understand the social and psychological costs of departures and migrations. He, in turn, would eventually never leave the sea.
In the 1970s, labor migration was seen as a temporary solution to “rising unemployment and inadequate foreign exchange earnings.” At the time, there were less than 40,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) worldwide.  Today, they are more than eight million strong.  Their remittances exceeded $2 billion in September 2012 alone.  The same year, two children of OFWs, Christopher Louie Ocampo and Neil B. Nucup, took part in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C., eventually ranking among the top 100 Oralists.  More OFW children are being honored annually by the Bank of the Philippine Islands for their excellence in academics, sports, entrepreneurship, and leadership. 
The short story, “A Society,” by Virginia Woolf, posits that “the objects of life were to produce good people and good books.” Having accomplished the first, some people go on to give birth to the second, or vice-versa. Mrs. Beatriz Tabios, whose short stories, Dawac and Redressing the Uncelebrated Birthday, appeared in our 32nd and 38th issues, respectively, passed away in November, at age 82. She left behind children and grandchildren, among whom the poet Eileen R. Tabios, and a book, where she wrote about “childhood memories of Babaylans, as well as surviving the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II.”
We chose the theme, “Left Behind,” for our 39th issue. Reme and I discussed putting out an issue based on this theme after she lost Naranja, her incorrigible cockatiel, and after my husband and I lost Alex, our beloved, hopelessly deranged cat. There were other partings before and since then that were more harrowing and less tolerable. This is for everyone who knows what it means to carry on.
This issue we proudly feature—
poems by Ivy Alvarez, Carlene Bonnivier, Cynthia Buiza, Gloria Martillano, Herbert Siao, and Leny Mendoza Strobel;
an interview with Tahanan Books publisher Reni R. Roxas; essays by Lani Montreal on the America she has come to know, James Bautista on losing a grandparent, and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on adoption; a review of Carmen Guerrero Nakpil’s “A Christmas Memoir” by Kathleen Burkhalter; and an excerpt from Nadine Sarreal’s novel “Putsero." In Portrait, Lia Chang talks to theater actor Mel Sagrado Maghuyop about his role as the King in Harbor Lights Theater Company’s production of The King and I (incidentally, this is the second of Lia's interviews for OOV). Our Bookshelf display includes Eileen Tabios and j/j hastain’s the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, and Beatriz Tilan Tabios’Dawac and Other Memoir-Narratives. And the things we simply cannot articulate, we tried to capture in Gallery, where we unveil photos such as “Mermaid’s Only Choice” by Remé Grefalda.
When we’re left behind, we do whatever it takes—hide under the covers, square our shoulders, or simply reach for someone's hand. We fight our way back, until we find our way home. Until we’re standing exactly where we ought to be. And sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we meet them again—the places we once called home, and hearts we loved the most.
From Eth-Noh-Tec: Her writing was elegant and graceful as she shared the poetic stories in a piece called ”Wedding Dress”. In this piece she drew in sights and sounds of Filipino life, with images of Manila, like Quiapo, the old town market district, images of old photos, draping fabric, stillness and moments, of beggars and saints, folk potions that cure forgetfulness. Aileen’s poetry is sensual and intimate as she draws her listener into personal views of family relationships, always honoring the matriarchy of mother and lola (grandmother). In her second piece she was joined by Paul, her husband for some tandem recitation of a poem titled: ”Italian Wedding [Soup]."
It was such a fun night, many thanks to our hosts and guests!
#15: Last word is the poet’s calling by Aileen Ibardaloza (Open Palm Press, 2010)
From Open Palm Press (an imprint of Meritage Press):
Those who order five or more "Hay(na)ku for Haiti" booklets from Meritage Press' Open Palm Press will also receive a complimentary copy of Eileen R. Tabios' latest Marsh Hawk Press book, THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New, edited by Thomas Fink.
As five booklets are available for $15 and Ms. Tabios' book retails for $19.95, we hope poetry lovers will find this offer an attractive way to contribute to Haiti relief.
Last word is the poet’s calling
By Aileen Ibardaloza
— after Bill Moyers (Journal,22 January 2010) and Danielle Legros Georges
(Poem for the Poorest Country In the Western Hemisphereand
The Yellow Forms of Paradise)
It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.
— William Carlos Williams
What is found there is this:
[The] dying generations...
The earth expanding right hand and left hand...
[There,] All the lives we ever lived...
Our Own Voice celebrates National Poetry Month for we believe in Poetry’s societal role, both traditional and evolving, and in its moral and cultural responsibility. Every poet, having mastered the art of rhetoric, carries within him/her the power to initiate change.
Our 31st issue features the work of poets Eileen R. Tabios, Rolly delos Santos, Rachelle Cruz, Sean Labrador y Manzano and Joel H. Vega, as well as mine. In Essays, Joi Barrios, Cindy Dean-Morrison and Laura Huggins review Eileen Tabios’ The Thorn Rosary: Selected Prose Poems and New, Eusebio L. Koh’s Like the Mimosa and Remé Grefalda’s The Other Bluebook: On the High Seas of Discovery, respectively; Yolanda Palis interviews Toronto-based artist Celia Correa; Michael Caylo-Baradi moves through freeway signs in “Winnowed Ablutions”; and Gem Daus finds new meaning as a Filipino American when he discovers Carlos Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart”. Our short stories are excerpted from Peter Bacho’s latest novel, Leaving Yesler and Grefalda’s The Other Bluebook. Also this issue, we show artwork by Bobby Wong, Jr., Rolly delos Santos, Celia Correa and Santiago Bose.
In other news: Healthcare. Recession. Elections. Earthquakes.
What are poets for, in such an age?
A poet is always engaged in battle, says David Orr; the symbol of national identity, stresses Milan Kundera.
Where are Whitman’s wild children, [then?]
[Not to worry,] The cavalry is here.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by [irony],
Wake up, the world’s on fire!
I am signaling you through the flames.
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
it will be short, it will take all your breath
I’m with you [online]
where we are great writers on the same dreadful [computer]
Ah, what an age it is…
(Paragraph #2 William Butler Yeats; #3 Walt Whitman; #4 Charles Elton; #8 and 10 Lawrence Ferlinghetti; #11 Aimee Nezhukumatathil; #12 Allen Ginsberg; #13-15 Lawrence Ferlinghetti; #16 Adrienne Rich; #17 Allen Ginsberg; #18 Bertolt Brecht)
(Image from The Academy of American Poets’ 2010 National Poetry Month poster, with Baybayin script inserted, “Abril, Buwan ng Tula”)
& since it's also May Day, I was going to have Billy Bragg singing "The Internationale" as background—you can, if you've got a server that opens links in a new window, still have it: just click on the link—but there's enough in this issue to allow an unaccompanied announcement. As befits a 4th birthday issue, it's a bit more packed than normal. In addition to the usual broad selection of paintings, prose, photographs, sermons, assemblages, poetry of all shapes, sizes, & styles, &, as always, a large offering of vizpo, the issue also includes two special features; one of which, since it was to have been a complete issue of another journal which has, unfortunately, gone into hiatus, is actually magazine-sized.
In the standard part of the issue you'll find work by Michael Farrell, Marilyn R. Rosenberg , Eric Arnold, Jim McCrary, Reed Altemus, Adam Fieled, Bob Heman, Tim Wright, Samit Roy, Caleb Puckett, Charles Freeland, gustave morin, dan raphael, Philip Byron Oakes, Dorothee Lang & Karyn Eisler & Susan Gibb, Sam Langer, Geof Huth, Esa Mäkijärvi, Scott Metz, Andrew McEwan, Felino Soriano, Travis Macdonald, Paul Siegell, Alan Davies, Kirsten Kaschock, Raymond Farr, John M. Bennett, John M. Bennett & Sheila E. Murphy, Jeff Harrison, Letitia Trent, Michelle Cahill, Valery Oisteanu, Irving Weiss, Martin Edmond, Carlos Soto Román, Jim Meirose, SJ Fowler, Felipe Cussen, Grzegorz Wróblewski, James Mc Laughlin, Michael Steven, Arkava Das, Michael Caylo-Baradi, J. D. Nelson, Jal Nicholl, Jenny Enochsson, Joe Balaz, Glenn R. Frantz, Michael Brandonisio, Jon Curley & Gg Re, sean burn, Bobbi Lurie, Jeff Klooger, Richard Kostelanetz, Silvio De Gracia, David-Baptiste Chirot, Alexander Jorgensen, Anne Gorrick, John Moore Williams, Marcia Arrieta, Mara Patricia Hernandez, Bill Drennan, nick-e melville, Corey Wakeling, John Martone, Jessie Janeshek, Thomas Fink (reviewing David Lehman's Yeshiva Boys), & Emma Smith.
The first special feature is ROCKPILE on the road, with poems by Michael Rothenberg & David Meltzer, photos by Terri Carrión, & an introduction by Larry Sawyer.
The second special feature is Poet-Editors, curated & introduced by Eileen R. Tabios. 43 poet-editors respond to the question: "What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?" The respondees, who also provide—sometimes quite extensive—samples of their work, are: William Allegrezza, Ivy Alvarez, Anny Ballardini, Joi Barrios, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ana Božičević, Garrett Caples, Brian Clements, Bruce Covey, Del Ray Cross, Patrick James Dunagan, Elaine Equi, Adam Fieled, Thomas Fink, Luis H. Francia, Geoffrey Gatza, Tim Gaze, Crg Hill, Aileen Ibardaloza, Vincent Katz, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Burt Kimmelman, Mark Lamoureux, Amanda Laughtland, Timothy Liu, Dana Teen Lomax, Joey Madia, Sandy McIntosh, Didi Menendez, Lars Palm, Guillermo Parra, Ernesto Priego, Sam Rasnake, Barbara Jane Reyes, Christopher Rizzo, Patrick Rosal, Sarah Rosenthal, Susan M. Schultz, Logan Ryan Smith, Jill Stengel, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Jean Vengua, & Mark Young.
& if that isn't enough, the print parts of the previous issue of Otoliths, the southern summer 2010 issue, are now available from The Otoliths Storefront.
Review of The Thorn Rosary: Selected Prose Poems and New (1998-2010) by Eileen R. Tabios (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2010)
A torn rosary, in Filipino burial tradition, signifies the broken cycle of death. In the genre of Prose Poetry, Eileen R. Tabios’ The Thorn Rosary breaks the peripherality not only of Filipino/Filipino-American post-colonial concerns, but also of the Filipina as forgotten poet, healer, storyteller and epic hero.
Thomas Fink, in his Introduction, observes that
the transcolonial poet looks toward the day when the Philippines will overcome the imprint of colonialism and the Marcos regime; assertion is the first step in imagining what exceeds the “music”/”poetry” of (post)colonialism: “I break this music’s shackles. My name is Eileen and I will not be jailed inside a poem.”
In the Afterword, Joi Barrios equates Tabios with Leona Florentino (the first published Filipina poet) who “wrote for her community, [as] Tabios writes for Filipinos in the diaspora”; with the binukot (storyteller) of pre-colonial Philippines who “[sang] of the hero’s life”, as Tabios “sings” of and undertakes the journey (i.e., “of the self to the self through the work”); and with the unanthologized Tagalog women poets during the American colonial period who, “specifically [addressing] women readers… [and emphasizing] the value of the woman worker… employed the strategies of the traditional Tagalog literary form, the balagtasan (verbal joust in verse)”, as Tabios “privileges the woman’s voice… and employs the [balagtasan’s cue-response] technique… [in urging] us to think critically of our own complicitness in global capitalist culture.”(2)
As the rosary is a meditation on the decades and their mysteries, the mysteries of The Thorn Rosary involve more than a decade’s worth of meditations and engagements with language, form, culture, reason and human experience. Underlying both is a “purity of intention”. Without romantically idealizing a post-colonial Philippines or the concerns of immigrant communities in a postmodern, multicultural society, Tabios redefines the word “Balikbayan”(3).
I am called “Balikbayan” because the girl in me is a country of rope hammocks and waling-waling orchids—a land with irresistible gravity because, in it, I forget the world’s magnificent indifference.(4)
I have been “meditating” with Tabios’ work for almost five years now, and I find that some lines are simply immortal:
Part of mortality’s significance is that wars end.(5)
Some lines, like poetic stomach punches, are so unexpected they never fail to knock the wind out of me:
I am compelled to answer the many variations of the same question: Why do I weep before a square canvas depicting a square? Or a circular canvas depicting a circle? Have the Greeks attained purity? Attained perfection? Have I earned the moments I made my mother cry?(6)
Despite (or because of) the lack of line breaks, I hold my breath longer than I thought I could when I find the beat as startling as the poet’s ability to sustain the emotional impact in long sentences:
These memories are a single weight and you are the one with the extended palm, open and trusting the fall of light against the flesh that surrounds your life lines.(7)
And then again, some of the lines just break me:
“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you!” Mr. Forgotten Name exclaimed, patting me on the shoulder. “Perhaps you’ll come work for me someday!
“Your mother is the best typist who’s ever worked for me! And I never have to repeat my instructions for her to do what I want correctly the first time!”
I turned then to my mother and whispered, “Mama…”(8)
“Pink Lemonade” is inviting in its jauntiness and remarkably pink imagery:
Women may be like fireflies—they constellate and then, for a moment, they all go dark at once.
But, inevitably, one will go shopping for a pink clochard.
A pink coyote with an extra cherry.
Circlet of pink sapphires to dangle (insouciantly) from a wrist.(9)
In “Looking for M.”, Tabios effectively uses the haybun form (a prose and hay(na)ku combination) in communicating the vicissitudes of motherhood, that which births the greatest of mysteries:
much louder I
tu Mama’s silence
your twisted ten-year-old
multiple implosions within(10)
(Interestingly, in this section, Tabios bravely tackles mental disorder which, for the longest time, was taboo’d and unaddressed in Philippine society.)
In true Tabios fashion, the book ends with “E-mail to a Young Poet”, a prose poem in letter form, limned with steel and velvet—elegant, veiled, fierce, inherently generous:
Here, now, is a deceptively manicured hand slitting then arising from the page to stroke your cheek…and, later, wherever else you will guide it to go…
Take my hand, fold it within your own. Shiver (Honey, I know…).
Honey, Poetry always knows.(11)
1. Thomas Fink, “Introduction,” in The Thorn Rosary: Selected Prose Poems and New (1998-2010), by Eileen R. Tabios (New York: Marsh Hawk Press, 2010), 20. 2. Joi Barrios, “Fearless Peerless Kasu-Kasuan Poetry: Notes on Eileen Tabios’ ‘Thorn Rosary’,” in The Thorn Rosary, pp. 313-321. 3. The Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board defines “Balikbayan” as “Philippine nationals who are permanently residing abroad including their spouses and children, regardless of nationality or country of birth. It also refers to those of Filipino Descent who acquired foreign citizenship and permanent status abroad.” 4. Eileen R. Tabios, “Corolla,” in The Thorn Rosary, p. 45. 5. Ibid., “Helen,” p. 156. 6. Ibid., “Purity,” p. 67. 7. Ibid., “The Chase,” p. 74. 8. Ibid., “Milk,” p. 254. 9. Ibid., “Pink Lemonade,” p. 155. 10. Ibid., “The Silent Scream,” p. 275. 11. Ibid., “E-mail to a Young Poet,” p. 310.