Saturday, September 12, 2015


Eileen Tabios presents Afterword to NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, Ca, 2006)



From Small Press Distribution's book description of The First Hay(na)ku Anthology Co-Edited by Mark Young (New Zealand) and Jean Vengua (U.S.A.) released by Meritage Press (2005):

The "hay(na)ku" is a poetic form invented by Eileen Tabios, as inspired by Richard Brautigan, Jack Kerouac, and Tabios' meditations on the Filipino transcolonial and diasporic experience. The form is deceptively simple: a tercet comprised of one-, two- and three-word lines. Many poets also created variations from the basic form, attesting to its paradoxical suppleness despite its minimalist orientation. Inaugurated on June 12, 2003 (Philippine Independence Day), the form swiftly became popular and since has been used by poets all over the world.

I didn't expect the hay(na)ku to become so popular. But I'm glad. And now I'm ecstatic to see NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego, the first single-author hay(na)ku poetry collection!

It's synchronistic that such a book would not come out of the Philippines whose history helped inspire the hay(na)ku, or the United States where I conceptualized the form.  For I also consider the hay(na)ku a diasporic, thus, transnational, form.  In the words of Jean Vengua:

I was thinking, in the shower today ; ), how amazing it is that so many poets see so much possibility in such a tiny poetic form (albeit that it can expand to great lengths), this little container for words. And I realize that this is in large part because of the way it's generously framed it in the first place
as a transnational and a diasporic form, which can easily adapt to various locales and languages. Charles Olson's and Walt Whitman's expansive lines are seen as intrinsically American, the haiku is seen as Japanese, the sonnet as European (I realize these examples are "form" in a very broad sense). But although the hay(na)ku can be viewed as "Filipino," it has from the beginning transcended the need to pin poetic form down. And it will not stick to a binary. Amazingly open. As Mark Young wrote: "Any subject. No code."

The circle turns, as circles are wont to do. It nonetheless is fitting that a Mexican poet be the first to author a single-author hay(na)ku book. Centuries ago, after all, the Spanish colonial government of the Philippines was administered out of Acapulco.

I had conceived of the hay(na)ku when I was thinking of creating a welcoming poetic form. This partly stemmed from my early efforts to write the haiku—many of my efforts were met with the response, "But it's not a real haiku" for many reasons. As a result, I rarely write haiku. And so I hoped, with the hay(na)ku, to create a form that invites, that welcomes. Part of its expanse results in continued expansions of the form. The majority of Ernesto's poems are hay(na)ku sequences—indeed, the hay(na)ku seems to lend itself to the sequence, which has caused respected poet Ron Silliman to consider the hay(na)ku to be a "stanza"!  In any event, there is one single-tercet hay(na)ku included in Ernesto's collection.

Welcome to the hay(na)ku, or as they call it in Spanish: jáinakú!

March 7, 2006, St. Helena, CA

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