"Eileen Tabios cracks open Ashbery’s convex mirror to reveal a secret history of our times. Her virtuoso riffs on Ashbery’s masterwork are no mere exercise, but open up into unexpected vistas—these poems “say ‘convex’ for widening / the gaze.” That gaze is directed both inward and outward, offering glimpses of the quotidian life of those who find “mortality gazing back / at us from the bathroom mirror,” but also pulling back for a wide-angle view of a planet in crisis, chronicling “the body’s deterioration, ours and earth’s.” These pages, like Ashbery’s, are filled with the pleasures of poetry, but Tabios resists the “preening that / negates the subject matter,” unafraid to peer behind the scenes of our lives in “the dim shadows / of a movie forged from the margins / of capitalism.” The swerve of the convex mirror, allowing us a (brief) respite from confronting ourselves, is gradually replaced with an awareness of our complicity in the world reflected in the poem: “No one is / innocent in empire.” What’s left to the poet is to be “the spy / in the house,” as Tabios’s formal inventions dig behind enemy lines to open up, however briefly, a space of plentitude: “I came into being, capacious and singing.”" — Timothy Yu, author of Race and the Avant-garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry Since 1965
Witness in the Convex Mirror by Eileen R. Tabios
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