EILEEN TABIOS Engages
Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight by Jim Pascual Agustin
(Gaudy Boy LLC / Singapore Unbound, New York, 2023)
I’ve read poems by Jim Pascual Agustin in the past. If the poems in his new book, Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight, represent his newest or newer work, then I’m glad since they’re among the best poems I’ve read by him. The poet improves as he continues writing—it’s lovely to see that for Agustin since it’s lovely to see such about any poet.
Among my favorites is the title poem “Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight.” (I did wonder why the title of both poem and book is not, instead, "Waking Up to the Pattern Left Overnight by a Snail." But, moving on...) The poem is not only strong (deceptively powerful in its minimalism) but it grounds the entire collection through the quotidian: “Troubled as a dream / without an end. / It is all water / and glass, this world / bound by wood, / not knowing it / was a window.” (I’d have preferred this short poem to be the first versus second poem but no need to burrow in corkscrew thinking to second-guess the order of poems. I mention my preference only to support the strength of this poem.)
The book's tone of calmness falls like a cashmere shawl about you as you sit reading this book of poems. That calmness makes more emphatic the occasional shard your eyes suddenly stumble across, like this excerpt that made my fingers itch with empathy to make that twist:
Turn the tap. Add a smile, pretend
you’re twisting the ear of the school bully
—from “The Struggle of Water”
Or this shard of an ending to the prose poem “Leaving the Infinite Library”:
…Then the librarian appeared on the panel
“Infinity is but a moment here. You know that once you read that book
there is no turning back, my child?”
She nodded. She could already recall the first scent of blood that
Came rushing out of her: warmth, surprise, fear.
Sometimes, the shard doesn’t recede and becomes the entire poem, as for "The Name of the Land Is One” which begins bluntly in a welcome way as
The name of the land is one
of many claims
There is also a welcome oddness to several poems that elevate them. Take “Injuring the Night.” I’m not sure the second stanza “works,” but I don’t care since such assessments are subjective and may work for someone else. The first and third work for me and the all of it resonates memorably. I have a soft spot for night poems and I welcome this one:
Injuring the Night
Injuring the night’s skin, boots
Dark with someone else’s blood.
Shattering the night’s skull, porcelain
Cups the shape of babies’ mouths.
Twisting the night’s spine, dawn
Throwing ropes of light.
Last but not least, I welcome the multiplicity of references raised within the book—they bespeak a wide-ranging attention span that’s one of this poet’s assets. For this collection, the presence of diverse elements include Taylor Swift, Björk, Maria Ressa, Mad Max, Japanese anime, and the Marcos dictatorship. May Agustin continue to be energetically curious and intellectually open as his poetry will benefit as well as his readers. But we need not look to the future to express gratitude for a satisfying reading experience. Congratulations to Jim Pascual Agustin for this book of poetry.
Eileen R. Tabios has released over 70 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers around the world. In 2023, she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; an autobiography, The Inventor; and a flash fiction collection collaboration with harry k stammer, Getting To One. Other recent books include a first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; two French books, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin) and La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery); and a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels. Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; and the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed. Translated into 12 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. More information is at http://eileenrtabios.com
Post a Comment