Thursday, February 4, 2016



"The Boatman's Book Spine Poetry," a poem and sculpture (2015) by Aileen Ibardaloza

I adore Aileen Ibardaloza as a human being and as a poet-artist. Her unassuming demeanor hides a variety of talents, such that I was delighted to see one of her works chosen by curator Krip Yuson for the recent “CHROMATEXT Rebooted”exhibition of Visual Poetry  at the Philippine Cultural Center in Manila.  Aileen’s sculpture, “The Boatman's Book Spine Poetry,” is not just charming but reflects the attention she pays to Filipino Literature.  Indeed, the sculpture manifests a catalog or list poem whereby each line is a title of another Filipino author’s book!  Here is the sculpture, and the text-poem below:

The Boatman's Book Spine Poetry

My Romance
On the High Seas of Discovery

Tattered Boat
Blood Orange
In Ordinary Time

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami
Sleep in Me

Miracle Fruit
Fourteen Love Stories

Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser
The Darker Fall

The Word on Paradise

Aileen is also one of the editors of Our Own Voice, an important online literary/arts journal founded by Remé Grefalda and others to highlight Filipino voices in the diaspora. As it turns out, Aileen’s "The Boatman's Book Spine Poetry" is inspired by titles featured in Our Own Voice's Bookshelf. Featured authors include (in the order of their titles-turned-into-lines-of-the-poem above) Patria Rivera, Eileen R. Tabios, Remé Grefalda, Luis H. Francia, Angela Narciso Torres, Gemino H. Abad, Rey Ventura, Jon Pineda, Lysley Tenorio, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., Angelo R. Lacuesta, Luisa A. Igloria, Rick Barot, Ivy Alvarez, and Alfred A. Yuson.  

A long literary (susmaryosep: avant-garde even) tradition has investigated the suppleness of language and, specifically, how seemingly arbitrary juxtapositions of words next to each other will, somehow, create meaning. It's a poet's attention to detail that makes Aileen's juxtapositions of titles work -- for example, the second stanza of "Tattered Boat / Blood Orange / In Ordinary Time" create an evocative image for which the attentive reader can visualize and respond.  Similarly, the third stanza of "Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami / Sleep in Me" can easily be interpreted to relate to a memory, whose story or significance the reader then can flesh out.

What a lovely tribute Aileen created to the referenced Filipino authors, in turn, creating a showcase for her quiet but deep attention to others as well as her own talent. This reader and viewer can only respond with gratitude.


Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 40 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her most recent are THE CONNOISSEUR OF ALLEYS (Marsh Hawk Press, 2016) and INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems and New 1996-1915 (Dos Madres Press, 2015). More information is available at

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