EILEEN TABIOS Engages
ON LIBERTY, REPRESSED by Tom Jenks
(The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, Newton-Le-Willows, U.K., 2014)
One must begin by citing “A Note upon the Text” which is at the front of the book ON LIBERTY, REPRESSED by Tom Jenks:
This text is a numerical repression of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. The entire text of On Liberty was imported into a database table, from which only words beginning with the letters in the title (o, n, l, etc.) were selected. These words were then sequentially placed in ten by ten grids. From these grids, words in the columns corresponding to the year of first publication were selected: 1, 8, 6 and 9. This produced 268 canvases, each containing 40 words. These canvases were shaped by erasure. No more than one word per line was kept. Addition was forbidden as was any form of editing. This process reduced On Liberty from 52000 words to just over 1000. The finished text presented here can be thought of as an oblique summary.
Given how the results are presented as pages rather than, say, stanzas with the resulting unerased words, one is encouraged to look at the results visually. From this standpoint, it’s interesting to see what became effective. For example, this from Page 11 where, following the word “irradiated,” is a huge expanse of space before the next word (“intellectual”) that serves to evoke the radiance from “irradiated.” [Click on images to enlarge]
There’s also this moving Page 14 where the placement of “others” at the bottom right-side of the page (as if it’s about to leave the page) emphasizes the other-ness of said others.
One more example is Page 83’s two words where there is a huge expanse between the two words of “extinguished” and “expression.” The blank space aptly hearkens extinguishment. Nor are the two words aligned...
Not all work in this manner, though, and so one then must look for other ways to engage with the text. One can go old school, for instance, and read the text as just words. Again, some work and some don’t. Page 91, for me, works:
enlarged reticence in orthodox intellects
But some don’t, defying that Stein-ian claim that any two words placed next to each other will generate meaning, or, at least meaning that's meaningful. Page 90’s
is simply silly.
Thus, despite some individual (page-)successes, one also experiences dissatisfaction as some results are not effective. But that seems to befit the nature of this text. Why would one be happy with repression, let alone of Mill’s On Liberty where, among other things, it is stated that opinions should not be suppressed? Herein lies (pun intended) this work's effectiveness.
Eileen Tabios reveals something about herself in ARDUITY'S interview about what's hard about her poetry. Her just-released poetry collection, SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems), received a review by Amazon Hall of Famer reviewer Grady Harp. Due out in 2015 will be her second "Collected Poems" project; while her first THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, her forthcoming INVEN(S)TORY will focus on the list or catalog poem form. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com