Thursday, January 22, 2009

And now for a poetic break...

Novel Chatelaine
By Eileen Tabios
Published by Amanda Laughtland

Dysthimia is salt.
Ubiquitous grains

About that
Am not sure.

Novel Chatelaine is not harmless.

To give in to the idea that you can do anything with form and language because no one said you couldn’t…endangers your credentialled sensibilities.
Since sensibilities are cultivated and heavily puts us in debt to earn a three-letter word after one’s name…imperils the top perch reached after the arduous climb.
The arduous climb is a claim to pedigreed expertise in something…like litcrit.
Experts always work from a template of pre-ordained statements about the way things ought to be.

What is a good novel? How long or short could it be so that it’s not called a short-story or a novelette? When is it literary or merely popular? Or simply: what is a novel?

Armed with these questions, I plan to take Novel Chatelaine to my colleagues in the English Department to see what they have to say. Can a chapbook be a novel?

Why not? Eileen Tabios asks. So she writes a seven-chapter novel, each chapter comprising of one paragraph with less than 50 words on each. All of it in one 8x11 page folded into eighths.

Within this economy of words and natural resources, I hear the story. I feel its emotions. Its tone. Its heaviness. Its denouement into a suspended moral angle of repose. I could even memorize the entire novel!

Dang. If a poet can express a novel-length story into the size of a tiny chapbook, what does one need a novel for?

I told you this novel is not harmless.

Why else? Because Eileen Tabios succeeds yet again in transgressing my expectations. As in The Secret Life of Punctuations where she subverts the rules of grammar, she keeps on creating new forms in unexpected spaces. "I am a Novelist!" she declares in the accompanying postcard and I laugh hysterically because I am thinking of the many times I have shrunk from declaring myself as a … something. And when I ask myself "why not?" I know that is prompted by the fecundity of Eileen’s poetry.

There is a lesson here for me.
The time for being harmless is over.
No more timidity.
No more excuses.

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