Purvi Shah

Eileen Tabios

[Purvi Shah is a poet who was born in Ahmadabad, India and currently living in New York City. Her poems have been published in various journals including Descant and Weber Studies, as well as in two anthologies published by the Asian American Writers Workshop: The NuyorAsian Anthology: Asian American Writings about New York City and the 1997 American Book award recipient, Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America. She is currently the Poetry Editor for The Asian Pacific American Journal where this interview first appeared.]

 "The act of art is a tool for extended consciousness."
— Robert Irwin

"When I was working abstractly, everything kept reducing itself to a horizon line."
— Richard Diebenkorn

"Interpretation is so much of anything."
— Tom DeFlora

After spending nearly a decade as a banker, Eileen Tabios became a full-time writer in 1996. Tabios says she has been told by others that she is lucky to be a full-time poet. She responds, "There are many ways to pay one's 'dues.' To those who think me lucky, I suggest they try working for international banks. And do so for such a diverse set of employers as the British, the Japanese and the Swiss whose cultures offer contrasting definitions of prudent banking." Nevertheless, Tabios says that she considers poetry to be the most difficult act she's ever participated in — and that it is poetry's "particular and unique difficulty" that is likely to retain her interest more than any of her previous careers.

By poetry's "difficulty," Tabios says she partly means the poem's transcendence of authorial intent. "When I cannot know how the poem's reader will respond to the poem, how do I write the poem when, nevertheless, I am trying to create a meaningful relationship?" she says. "Given my life to date, the only moment of revelation I know about this question is that there is no particular type of training for the practice of poetry."

Before working as a banker, Tabios also worked as an economist, a journalist, a stock market analyst, among others. Generally, her prior careers shared one thing in common: it allowed her to be able to address a wide variety of topics. A reporter can't anticipate what will become the news event requiring coverage, nor an analyst what factors will come to influence the rise and fall of the stock market. She notes, "I'm rather restless; I believe Hell is boredom."

"But all these careers have come to be very helpful as I think they all provided training for poetry. Part of what's special about poetry is that it can address anything and everything. All of life can be training for the attentive poet," Tabios adds. "And the reverse can be true. Becoming a poet has, I think, also trained me to live better — that is, live with more awareness — in that I become more conscious of my environment and the world. For me, I think lucidity is both a process and goal. Certainly, I have found that the analytical perspective I honed through negotiating banking deals has helped me write my own poems."

Through the Asian American Writers Workshop Tabios has helped to form a strong community of writers. She continues to relish her new friends within the writing community. During our interview, Tabios was interrupted by a phone call and after she returned to our meeting, she said, laughing, "That was Mei-Mei (Berssenbrugge). She just found a new writer's studio and she said I was her first call from her new space. I'm honored."

Tabios' poetics are striking. She has found a home in prose poems, a form which she says has allowed her to write her version of what she calls "abstract poetry" — that is, poetry that doesn't rely on narrative so much as her desire that "it be the reader's subjectivity that completes the poem." Tabios's version is different from other notions of "abstract poetry" in that it is an approach that is influenced by her background as a collector of contemporary art; her wine-tasting hobby; her consciousness that English was an American colonizing tool of her birthland, the Philippines; and her first career of journalism where she discovered the limitations of words as a tool for communications.

In "Beginning Lucidity," the sample poem she chose to discuss for our interview, Tabios' began writing a poem by "plagiarizing" sculptor Anne Truitt's diary-style text, Daybook, The Journal of an Artist (Penguin/Pantheon, 1982). "Because I'm not interested in writing a story or communicating a particular idea, I didn't think it mattered how I began this poem," she says. "Also, I have this problem of wanting to write many, many poems but I have nothing to say. But I'm also a voracious reader.

One of my goals is to read everything that has been written. So referencing other people's works in my poems allows me to be more efficient or lazy depending on how you see it."

Tabios uses the words she finds in other writings to push her own language. Thus, Tabios' poems evade the conventional stress on individuality and originality and push the author and reader both to grasp a new level of meaning and emotion.

The following presents my interview with how Tabios came to write her poem, "Beginning Lucidity."

Purvi Shah: How does "Beginning Lucidity" relate to your earlier poems, particularly the prose poems in the "Empty Flagpole" section of Beyond Life Sentences? You said you found your "home" in prose poems, versus the stanzaic forms offered in other parts of your book.

Eileen Tabios: Like "Beginning Lucidity," some of the prose poems in the "Empty Flagpole" section are what I call "abstract poems." The difference is that in the earlier prose poems (for instance the poem "Come Knocking" which is featured below), I tried to get to the more abstract levels of language by utilizing words in a manner that transcends the dictionary definition of individual words. In "Beginning Lucidity," I tried to do the same thing but more through creating unusual combination of words without subverting the dictionary meanings. In both cases, I hope that the poems then form a source of meaning whose significance to the reader can change over time as the reader's personality changes or that the poems are a source for different meanings for different people depending on each reader's subjectivity. In this case, I also should say that "meaning" to me is the evocation of emotion which may or may not be adequately translated into words — for example, a gut-wrenching spasm.

Some might call my approach a brand of surrealism but I use the phrase "subverting the dictionary" for political reasons related to the use of English as an imperialist tool in the Philippines, which we can discuss further later.

PS: Often people say that abstract art is meaningless because there's no emotional content or artistic finesse. Do you feel like the same critiques apply to abstract poetry?

ET: Abstract art is not that different from other forms of Art in how it requires an emotional response from its audience. With my abstract poems, I'm still just a hand reaching out and if no one touches it, then the hand is flailing in the wind and the poem never matures. As for "artistic finesse," I'm not sure what people mean by that. I will say that — without privileging one form over the other — I see "abstract poetry" as different from narrative poems. Narrative may make it easier for some people to discuss those works, but that doesn't mean the abstract form required less finesse. The art dealer Ivan Karp is a long-time family friend and he loves to stress that there's a difference between "aesthetics" and "preference" — using his terminology, I "prefer" the abstract form without necessarily judging that form to have more aesthetic value over other forms.

Some people may say that abstract poems leave them cold because they're not accessible, but there are poets who believe that the narrative forms are actually less accessible because this falsely assumes the existence of a consensus between the author and reader as to what words mean. In poetry, I try to create an emotion that transcends the dictionary sense of what words mean or what they typically evoke in the current cultural context. There are words that are beautiful outside their meaning, like azure or jasmine or cobalt. Even the spelling, a-z-u-r-e, azure. But to show how subjective one defines "beauty," I also think — and I can envision others disagreeing — that words like centrifuge, polychrome and lothario are beautiful. For me, this is partly the place of abstract poetry, in addition to what's happening in that space between words, lines, sentences and paragraphs.

In terms of accessibility, I think all art, regardless of form, really requires mostly the respect of an open heart and an open mind. Then, one must be open to the subject. But who's to say who is more attentive, the person who stands for hours in front of a painting or the one who takes it in in a flash?

PS: So how did you come to begin writing prose poems?

ET: Writing prose poems was a freeing experience because I felt I could just wail, like a saxophone or an opera singer elongating a note. I felt like a painter doing a brush stroke that doesn't have to end. An example is this poem, "Come Knocking." I felt at the time I was writing it as if I was painting a single brush stroke that continued past the edge of a canvas. The poem also reflects the influence of visual arts on my poetry in that this poem was written partly in appreciation of one of Jasper John's works, "Flag" (encaustic and collage on canvas, 1955):


You quirked an eyebrow when I said I loved the flag. What else can be summoned when you have never seen me drop a smile? Then you admired the cherries hanging from the ears of a lady behind me. But as I turned my back I felt you raise your hand before it sadly lapsed.

Someday we will discuss, you promised. It makes me order a drink. I know you admire encaustic for protecting forever the fragility of paper. But my friends begrudge you. Your blue shadows repel them. And they weep as I dive into the deep end.

I once rode an elephant through a field of tall grass. I laughed at a bear baring its yellow teeth. My guide was a pygmy who called me "Sir." My arms grew wiry tugging at rope. That evening, welts rose on my palms and I soothed them with the wet walls of a beer bottle.

What is the surface of reality? Do not our fathers matter? Life so transcends one's intention. With what are we grappling when we are not sleeping? Why need we grapple when we are dreaming? How difficult it must be for you. And still, I must come knocking

I felt very free while I was writing "Come Knocking." And, note that there's no period after the last sentence — this small detail is significant to me for evoking the sense of a brushstroke continuing past the canvas' edge. On the other hand, I felt constricted by the stanzaic form, the cutting nature of line breaks. I needed an elongated form of sentences without the interruption of line breaks. Also, the form of some of my prose poems may be related to how I breathe. I have a wonderful capacity to hold my breath, which I first realized at Barnard College. I can't swim but had to swim two laps in the pool in order to graduate. I succeeded only by holding my breath the whole time. So some of my poems are written with the same kind of breathing. That is, I can recite long lines without interruption whereas other people might have to pause to breathe when reading the same passages.

PS: How do you see "Beginning Lucidity" in relation to "found" poetry?

ET: Perhaps there's some similarity in that I don't feel it's as significant to me to be original and the extreme is to "plagiarize" in terms of beginning the poem. Or, maybe, this approach actually requires more from me because I have to make sure that ultimately the poem transcends the plagiarism. I remember once hearing about a school of philosophy which posits there's no such thing as an original thought. In fact, my empathy with the long line due to my breathing ability already has been addressed in the work done in previous decades by poets on the sentence as well as the paragraph (though I haven’t yet had the time to read much of their work). Also, abstract and minimalist art are lauded (appropriately) for their innovation and yet I see something similar to their evolution in the transition of Greek art from the Archaic to Classical Period; similarly, Van Gogh "copied" the subject matter of several artists like Millet. And I believe Plato utilized shifting perspectives of protagonists, a method used today by some writers and something that I also play with in some of my works. I think a lot about the notion of "originality" in art and how that goal may be an illusion.

PS: We've talked about abstract art and abstract poetry but can you talk more specifically about how your relationship with visual art has influenced the way you write your poems?

ET: It's partly a matter of discernment. Following contemporary art has trained my eye — an "eye" that's comprised of both the mind and the heart. Consequently, it helped my sense of how to look at or consider my own work.

Whether my opinion is valid in terms of the poem being ready to leave the writing studio is, of course, up to each subsequent reader. But training my eye has helped me to articulate internally an approach to writing.

I just discovered Sonita Singwi, an artist in whose works I see an affinity for what I love about poetry. Her paintings move me to recall how Filipino poet-editor Ricardo De Ungria described the birth of poems as "passionate patience." Sonita's paintings reflect the various quests of a highly active intellect which, when matched with a rigorous technique, result in works of overwhelming beauty. For me, Sonita's paintings are akin to poems developed after much thought, perhaps after much revision, and ultimately manifesting beauty through a cerebral approach. Sonita is not prolific and requires from three months to a year to finish a single painting. She layers oil paint on canvas, sands the surface down and repeats the process until the surface becomes like that of hard candy. The surfaces are elegantly simple in their ivory, pale blue or cream shades, but are also incredibly lush with a glow one associates with burnished gold or mother-of-pearl. In fact, despite their single colors, the paintings' surfaces project an opulence comparable to the surface of multi-hued silk Persian carpets.

Atop her paintings' surfaces, Sonita may paint tiny objects or a string of them. In another example of her rigorous technique, Sonita uses a single-hair brush to paint these tiny forms (I believe this reflects her concern with Identity given the tradition in some Indian miniatures for its artists to have used a single cat hair's brush). Intriguingly, these small objects are unidentifiable as animal, human or object, and yet project an inexplicable logic as to their shapes or forms. That is, the abstract forms evoke specific connotations, such as feathers, cells and molecules, tassels or the carved curls of hair on the kouroi statues — as in the right canvas of her 1998 work, "Untitled Diptych." The left-positioned canvas is sized nine inches X eight inches while the other is a ten-inch square. Also, the left work is dotted along the edges by four tiny forms while the right work displays a string of forms. One would think that the deliberate contrast between the diptych's two components in terms of scale and visual imagery would be dissonant. Instead, the result is logical — organic — a mis-matched combination that perversely results in beauty.

The surface of Sonita's paintings is so seductive that the viewer's eye follows the canvas as it folds behind the frame, thus questioning the boundaries of the painting; I empathize with what I see to be her disruption of boundaries, which is why I sometimes say I "paint" or "sculpt" versus "write" the poem. And in a work like "Untitled Diptych," she mismatches elements of the two canvases without disrupting the work's overall harmony.

Sonita's visual imagery retains its focus on physically manifesting beauty despite referencing life's contradictions and paradoxes — which means Sonita is also challenging preconceived and/or mass-produced definitions of beauty. It is a thoughtful approach that engages the viewer's heart as well as mind. And it is an engagement that resonates like a lyric poem — as in these words from "The Genesis" by Odysseus Elytis, one of the first poets I recall reading from the days before I was interested in writing poetry (I also thought of "genesis" when I concluded Singwi's abstract objects persuade the viewer in believing in the real-ness of their existence):

It was the sun, its axis in me
many-rayed, whole, that was calling And
the One I really was, the One of many centuries ago
the One still verdant in the midst of fire, the One still tied to heaven
I could feel coming to bend
over my cradle.

PS: What do you feel is the relationship between Annie Truitt's book and your sense of abstract poetry?

ET: Many of her phrases evoked a resonance that I wished my own work to effect in the reader. So I thought about "clipping" from her book those phrases and then collaging them together. As I said, it's not significant to me that I have something particular to say; I just want to evoke emotion in the reader, in the same way a viewer feels something when looking at an abstract painting.

It occurs to me that one reason perhaps why I'm reluctant to use the poem to communicate may have to do with rebelling against my banking background. After making the career switch to being an artist, I have observed myself become increasingly reluctant to voice an opinion. I have become wary of imposing judgment on others. As a banker, I was paid for my judgment. But banking also confirmed to me that to be a judge is to stand on a slippery slope. I believe "abstract poems" offer a way to engage in a relationship with the reader without having to define (and thus potentially constrict) prematurely that relationship.

And perhaps my perspective also is influenced by my first career as a journalist because words then were my tools as they are now. I began by writing for a community newspaper while still in high school. I was trained by reporters who didn't believe in New Journalism — that is, they believed in reporting the facts and not incorporating one's opinion in news coverage. I remember being proud of my ability to report "facts" versus opinion until the time I covered a race-related controversy involving the white principal of a high school versus a black student. In my story, which was printed in the front page of the newspaper, I again only tried to report the "facts." But the facts on the surface gave the impression that the principal may have been racist, when I knew that he was not. Somehow, (though perhaps this was because I was so young and inexperienced, too) I wasn't able to use the facts to illustrate that the principal was not racist. Shortly afterwards, the principal was transferred and perhaps the whole incident adversely affected his career. It's been 20 years since this incident and I still feel guilt and frustration that I was unable to communicate the high morals of this man when, I thought, simply reporting the facts should have enabled me to do so.

Certainly, I'm still suspicious today of how journalists use words to cover the news. This suspicion of language's effectiveness affects my poetry.

This is why I correlate my wine-tasting hobby, too, to my poetry. Because part of the fun there is articulating how a wine looks, smells, tastes and feels within the mouth — and do so without sounding pretentious which is very difficult among oenophiles, let alone be accurate. I once met a wine-lover who compared the taste of wine to the glory of morning dew on the lawns of Sri Lanka" — gimme a break! Once, I was dining in one of Napa Valley's restaurants and compared a robust red wine to "herb-encrusted, smoked meats." A fellow diner scoffed. I noticed someone else at our table had ordered roast lamb and suggested he taste it. He did, then said he could see why I described the wine in that manner. Yet, it may be impossible to articulate the experience of wine-tasting, as it is an experience that is as subjective as reading poetry or looking at art. Wine-tasting reminds me, too, of how words fail.

By the way, I am mentioning certain interests — like art and wine — because writing poetry for me must transcend what occurs in the writing studio. This reminds me of Timothy Liu's advice to emerging poets [in Tabios’ collection of poetry interviews/essays, Black Lightning], "When you're not reading or writing, fill your life with as much beauty as you can afford: great food, great art, great music, great sex. To apprehend what is great is to fill oneself with awe and gratitude as armor against the vile and the ugly and the small which is also life, a life that seeks to negotiate the abyss between what is imagined and what is real."

I should say, too, that although I think I'd formed my interest in abstract poems prior to 1998, I believe 1998 was important to my development as a poet. 1998 is, not only the centennial anniversary of the Philippines' Declaration of Independence from Spain but also, the United States' abortion of the Philippines first attempt at national sovereignty by becoming its colonizer. I curated several centennial-related readings in 1998 because I used those activities to reduce my ignorance of Philippine history, having emigrated to this country as a child. So 1998 was my year of understanding that English was a tool for American colonialism in the Philippines — somehow, this bolsters my poetic approach towards abstraction as a way to transcend poetically — or subvert politically — the dictionary definitions of English for my poetry. My learned unease with English during 1998 seems consistent to me with my desire to touch someone through the poem without having to communicate anything in particular. For me, my consciousness of the role of English in the history of my birthland is similar to how certain critics like Donald Kuspit has described the significance of the female figure in some of Willem de Kooning's abstract works. That is, Kuspit says some of de Kooning's works are misunderstood when correlated simply to the energy of his brushstroke without addressing the way de Kooning's attitude towards the image of the woman affects the power of his painterly gesture; similarly, there is an underlying — political — component to my work.

PS: After reading through your prose poems in Beyond Life Sentences, I was struck by the sense of emptiness which characterized so many of the poems. Your prose poems feel full of absence. Does this interpretation strike a chord with you?

ET: Absolutely. Whatever the psychological cracks and fissures are within me that generate that poetic emptiness, I wish to keep private except to say that there's a lot of unresolved things in my life. Poems for me are partly a way to reach clarity. I don't, however, write poems for therapy. I explore the unresolved and may let those issues remain unanswered. It's one reason why I'm looking forward to seeing the Kritios Boy in Greece, which I'm about to visit. The Kritios Boy is a statue that broke the 150-year-old tradition of the kouros stance. The traditional stance was full-frontal, impassive ... the Kritios Boy has a bent knee and seems, in the words of Greek art scholar Jerome Pollit (with whom I'll be traveling), "frozen in hesitation." That story touches me — this rebellion against tradition for the freedom to be uncertain.

Similarly, I'm working on a manuscript of prose poems tentatively titled "The Blue Event Horizon." The title poeticizes the concept of a black hole surrounded by matter rushing toward its huge gravitational pull. If you could look at a black hole, you would see that it would be ringed by something called a "blue event horizon." Presumably, if you are standing at a distance and can witness the black hole's phenomena, you would see that all the material rushing towards the black hole become suspended within the blue event horizon. In other words, it's impossible to witness the fall into the black hole. It's a fall that never completes itself — that's what I hope my poetic angst is: a falling that reflects my belief that chaos is part of life, but which doesn't translate into total nihilism.

Beginning Lucidity

    — after DAYBOOK THE JOURNAL OF AN ARTIST by Anne Truitt

Is the most difficult lesson one of submission: a spine bent willingly for a stranger's whip? How to reach something when we wake to find ourselves clutching the wet manes of panicked horses? And the only certainty about what lies beyond the drop of a path riddled with dangerous gravel is that there, too, "unanimous night" remains? I am trying this ride one can only make alone — that choking run towards a moment of light within the cloak of ragged breathing.

Sometimes, only erasures capture the threshold of consciousness. Why am I always drawn to the imperceptible? Why is there precedent for this curiosity by women marking time from the first farewell of a man? Noli me tangere — and still one feels it all, though the drain of emotion is persistently inevitable. One must pay the price of living on the spine to be a vessel for enlightenment. Is there consolation in this potential even as one begins to pace on the edges of knives? Do I really want to know why a permanent wound can be cut by a certain look from a child?

What kind of existence do we force on our days when we wish pain to remain unmitigated? Is that like poets laying pen against paper to approximate worlds without physicality? Is that like one more artist painting white on white on white? Perhaps I am forgetting that "faith" is religion without words, without buildings whose roofs block the sky. Indeed, sages welcome honey for its texture: a stubborn clinging fashioned from the sheen of precious metals. And I have heard angels from the Milky Way whisper through the fall of stars: "Jasmine is the scent of gold."

We teach our children that conversation can be a thin blanket for pain. But even a boor pauses before a Rembrandt self-portrait. I love a man who praises Rembrandt for painting his humanity beyond reprieve. But this man also repelled my child and now he thinks of thresholds solely for capturing shadows caused by a son's return. I love a man who looks at the world through a glass of heartbreaking resignation. What does this say about me?

Perhaps I am attempting to use color to prevent encounters from degenerating into lies? Afterthoughts always muster the musk of long-locked rooms — the musk of grey. I would like to believe I prefer what are held in common by rainbows and sapphires. I would rather continue down the path towards larger definitions. This, too, is why I believe criticizing artists is a waste of time, even if critics have glossy paper at their disposal. Character underwrites us all.

And what joy to recognize the curved line as both convex and concave — a moment close to my backbone. We should praise Greek poets for not bothering to alleviate heartbreak, but in addressing it only for fueling aspiration. Yet Plato shows me how I long to follow Prometheus — how deeply I feel the need to dance with vultures under a menopausal sun. I want, I want ... to be wrung, to be rung!

Yes, I am intrigued by how we take the straight line for granted. Unless we have felt money diminish like the draining of marrow. Once, I saw a purple orchid with a pink stamen. I was shopping for a used car, but noticed through peripheral vision the flower on a crumbling windowsill. Now I appreciate rust. From this same process, I have chosen to become more feminine in behavior. I believe this means I am now a bat who operates through radar.

How to be as plain as bread chewed by oenophiles to clear their palates? I want to live in those moments when energy starts to become visible through physical effect. Like a poor girl from my childhood who wore a dress I outgrew. Everyday for three months, silk lace fondled a neck that increasingly thinned until I could count the ropes stretched along her throat. They evoked the sounds of hot days: ice rattling in pitchers of spent lemons as sugar fails against insistent sourness.

Apparently, the back of my hair is marked by a stranger's crimson paint. As it is January, I must have brushed against a building's attempt to greet a new year. I was trying to overcome the holidays by meandering down Main Street. I always compliment January for leaving light as plain as it could be. I like the courage of women who refuse to paint their lips. They are not like me, who love to stain whatever I kiss. I like to kiss because, too often, murder can occur simply through the seamless pass by an eye. I like to kiss because all of life is precious and "fragile." All of life is fragile.

Oh, how often I ask myself: "What did I know? What do I know?" Is it enough to find joy in a sunray slipping past the shutters to allow dust motes their tango? What suffices when I have seen bliss deep within the eyes of an ascetic who wanders the world with a beggar's bowl? What can I truly hope for when, sometimes, all decisions are made by color? Once, I drove through a forest in New Hampshire and saw a painting by Cezanne as I made a left turn. But, so quickly did I leave it behind — this eye's inadvertent slip that forever marks me like a heart tattoo against an inner thigh.

Some wounds never heal. With age, she has learned to avoid pricking at them. But, occasionally, her foot slips and, once more — and I become tired as I note this to you — once more, she plunges. When all of my hair turned white, my reflection noted, "Down is faster than up." Matter is so stubborn that even Art can become about coping with the physical. Even your refusal to bear progeny fails to silence my pleas for shackled wrists. Or, how I long for your blindfold so I can beg, "Please: bare my breasts. Please: I want to feed your pleasure." Then once more: "Please."

I don't believe death is the final tenderness for death confirms the wisdom of choices that seek to exalt solitude. I overheard an old lady tell her companion: "One of the unexpected delights of parenthood is the reversal of being put to bed by a child." I have asked many among you whether I am naive to believe love need not be solipsistic. The man I love replied, No. So I have come this far to discover the beauty within a cloud chamber: the traces of intersecting trajectories. For the man I love quoted Emerson as he held me tight: "The health of the eye always demands a horizon. We are never tired so long as we can see far enough." I believe the man I love was telling me: "Do not fear the distance between physical objects. Learn how detachment includes."

It may be worth noting that after reading the first draft of the interview, Tabios mused, "Words so fail — here I am talking about abstractions and yet I am unsure whether there's truly a difference between 'abstract' and 'figurative(/narrative)' art."

What follows is my response, hopefully one of many, to Tabios' poem:

Language is heavy. Until you find a comfortable window to crawl through and reach meaning, the elusive home. "Beginning Lucidity" reminds me of dance, stanza paragraphs which strike a pose and change shape, hovering on the threshold between abstraction and meaning. With the image of "a spine bent willingly for a stranger's whip," I feel a beckoning of strange movement, the pressures of the words pleasure and pain merging on the body. The emphasis of "living on the spine" or the "backbone," brings a vision of a dancer holding herself straight, spine liberatory, and body turning slowly, each stanza a new face to the world. "Beginning Lucidity" expands from the spine, curving into new, intricate positions.

Perhaps the breathing of dancers and poetry is similar, unmarked. "Beginning Lucidity" strikes me as being centrally concerned with how art influences what we recognize — and what we don't. Here we see that in the New Hampshire forest, the speaker sees the paintings of Cezanne. The eyes of life and art come together, a visual epiphany. But earlier, beauty changes recognition, making dreary life into art. A "purple orchid ... on a crumbling windowsill" facilitates a new connection with rust. As in art, objects merge to create modes of recognition, a new knowledge of affiliation. The question I leave with, as "Art" is "coping with the physical" is whether such recognition, the dancer's palpable but intangible breath, does this recognition change the world or ourselves or is self-recognition at the threshold of the world and our inner lives? Or in Tabios' terms, does detachment include the beginnings of lucidity?

[Back to Readme]