Monday, May 29, 2017



(Darrell Nettles in his studio)

Broken Verse by Darrell Nettles
(art monograph from Darrell Nettles, New York, 2017)

As regards looking at visual art that utilizes letters, some viewers/readers have said that shifting perception from reading a letter to seeing its shape and other visual properties can be challenging. As one of them, I, thus, am positively struck by Darrell Nettles’ painting series, “Broken Verse.” He may break the verse-sources but he retains the letter-hood of the letters, as in this example, “Take Not” (2017), an 82 x 60” acrylic on canvas:
(click on all images to enlarge)

For me, the challenge then becomes one of appreciating the visual imagery without being (immediately) hampered or distracted by a reading. It’s this basis that makes his paintings successful. Yes, the letters are discernible in his acrylics on canvases but the initial pleasure one derives from the images relate to more visual-oriented properties like scale, depth, and color (including combinations thereof). As such, Nettles also has eliminated (or elevated?) the dispute between abstraction and realism/figuralism--what's more realistic than a letter or word that one reads and yet their presentation as colored shapes upon other colored backgrounds is abstract.  

(By the way, I have seen some of Nettles’ work in person but am “reviewing” a book and so can’t attest to the nature of these particular paintings’ surfaces. But based on other work, I know that Nettles is meticulously effective in applying paint on canvas.)

That one looks at Nettles’ paintings as paintings despite the presence of letters is particularly impressive because he doesn’t shape-shift the letters (as has been done by other artists). And he is not supposed to—ultimately, one can read from Nettles' paintings!  In “See All”(2016), a 72 x 54" acrylic on canvas, after first admiring the dark blue orb against the unexpected peach-ish background, which is partly to say, admiring the color combination, one can read from top to bottom William Blake’s poem “To See a World…” 

The literary content shouldn't be dismissed, or undercut by the visual properties of the letters, as evidenced by Nettles’ own Artist Statement on his series:

The Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7, 2015, marked the start of my new work.  I felt a strong need to turn this attack on free speech into art.

I extracted the text from a staff editorial in the New York Times, which became the background for studies, drawings, and paintings. The hard news became an abstract artifact of an era. Transforming the text gave the words new power and, by extension, gave my paintings layered meaning. This was my first experience using text both as the background and subject of a painting.

Next, I turned to Greek mythologies for further inspiration but found them unsatisfying. The stories were English translations of retold myths and not original. The writing lacked the sense of immediacy I was seeking.

It was then a natural step to the Book of Genesis. Even though it is also an English translation, the language of the King James version is very powerful.  I was taught as a child that this is the word of God. I heard these scriptures, repeatedly, in church and Bible School throughout my early childhood, and the words still ring in my ears today.

When I started incorporating Genesis in my paintings, it was like discovering a gold mine. Then Shakespeare came along, and I was swept away.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, my mood was very dark. Shakespeare provided a home for that darkness as well as a window for great beauty. As poetry became more important in my life, I saw more possibilities for paintings.

When text is transposed to canvas, it becomes beautiful in an entirely new way. Instead of reading it one word at a time in black type, you take it all in at once, with color, shape, and form. It enters your brain and your heart by another avenue. On canvas, it becomes a monument to treasure, instead of paper to recycle.

Classic writings of others have become my own. On canvas and freed from their dusty, historic bindings, they now speak in new ways. And they are mine, yours, and everyone else’s who reads them as they hang on walls. Isn’t that what free speech really means?

The Artist Statement shows how well Nettles conceptualized his "Broken Verse" series, helping to make the paintings more powerful.

Here is one more example of “Broken Verse”: “Part Well” (2016), an 82 X 60" acrylic on canvas whose letters quote from John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island”  

It’s apt to end my review with John Donne—no man (sic) is an island. Nettles shows in his painting how letters cannot exist without its shapes, and that reading cannot happen without seeing.  In “Broken Verse,” Nettles offers a deep understanding of the inseparability of the literal and visual. These works being paintings, it’s also apt to call them lovely.


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. Forthcoming later this fall is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but is pleased to direct you elsewhere where she was recently reviewed: Neil Leadbeater reviews her The Gilded Age of Kickstarters for Otoliths, May 1.  More info about her work at

POETRY In Response to Alex Tizon's article, "My Family Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido

(click on image to enlarge)

Alex Tizon's article, "My Family Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido, in The Atlantic (June 2017) quickly became viral upon its online release earlier this month. It reverberated widely because the story is not just about the Tizon Family but also about, among others, colonialism, imperialism, poverty, immigration, slavery, trafficking, servitude culture, the master-slave dynamic, family, patriarchy, victimization, redemption, and love. Galatea Resurrects presents poetic responses by the following poets below; click on links to their names to read their poems, most of which were written after the article's release. Also featured are links to previously-published poems which speak to the long-standing existence of many other "Lola Pulidos" and their contexts.

After the poems are links to articles that explore the elements and various significances of Mr. Tizon's article which presents how his family had been served by Ms. Pulido ... and vice versa.

Eileen Tabios
Editor, Galatea Resurrects


Jonel Abellanosa: "The Horror Neighborhood"

Jim Pascual Agustin: "Grandmother, Slave?"


Michelle Bautista: "Lola on the cover of The Atlantic"

Aileen Cassinetto  "The Woman Next Door" and "In the Island of Good Boots"

Melinda Luisa de Jesús: "Alternative Endings for Ms. Eudocia Pulido" and "Eudocia Dreams"

Elaine Dolalas: "5.17.2017"

Rose Linda Gonzales: "Mirror-ed"

Maileen Hamto: "56"

Luisa A. Igloria: "Help"

Sean Labrador Y Manzano: "Dugo"

Agnes Marton: "Have You Ever Slapped Someone Transparent?"

D Hideo Maruyama: "No one and everyone is a slave owner" and "Who profited from slavery's past?"

Amy Ray Pabalan: "What is Real"

Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan: "Reverse Longing" and "In Fetal Position"

Barbara Jane Reyes: "The Gospel of Juana de la Cruz"

Tony Robles: "Salamat" and "Stirred"

Irene Suico Soriano: "Lorena Eudocia"

Leny Mendoza Strobel: "Dear Eudocia,"

Eileen R. Tabios : "Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Avatar" and "Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Integrity"

Jean Vengua: "Other Worlds"

Alfred A. Yuson: "Andy Warhol Speaks To His Two Filipino Maids"

Related Poetry Elsewhere in the Internet:

Luisa A. Igloria: “Domestic Relations,” Via Negativa, May 26, 2017
I was told: it happens in more 
instances than you could know, 
to more people than you

can imagine

Luisa A. Igloria: “They Say Filipina Is Another Name For Maid," Philippine Free Press, Nov. 21, 1998
…Their hands
the size of their sleeping

Bino A. Realuyo: “Filipineza," The Nation, Feb. 18, 2002
In the modern Greek dictionary, the word ‘Filipineza’ means ‘maid’.”

Eileen R. Tabios: “My City of Bagiuo,” dis*Orient, 1997 and Otoliths, 2006
I let go of one end of the rope to swat the fly. It betrayed me and became a whip that lifted a vase off the table before smashing it onto the floor newly-burnished with halved coconut husks. And I heard my parents hailing, Hal-looo... Maria, the youngest maid, hearing the shattering crystal, had arrived in the dining room mere seconds before my parents. I can still hear the kitchen door squeaking as my mother dragged Maria by her left ear to banish her from the house. It was not the first time Maria took blame for one of my actions; but it was the last time and I remember my eyes were wide but dry as they watched Maria walk out of the door lugging a torn, plastic suitcase.

Eileen R. Tabios: “LETTERS FROM THE BALIKBAYAN BOX," Post Bling Bling (Moria Books, Chicago, 2005)
"When i went to the Philippines 2 yrs ago, we brought 2 big boxes so we could distribute 'gifts' to all kinds of relatives/neighbors. Nail polish: Loreal (for the closer aunties) and Maybelline and Wet n Wild for the 'maids' -- terrible that we gave them so called 'cheaper brands' but there are just so many: gardeners, drivers, lady who irons clothes, lady who washes clothes..."


In Response to Alex Tizon’s article, “My Family Slave,” as regards Eudora Tomas Pulido, The Atlantic, June 2017

"Filipino Women Against Modern Day Slavery,” a GABRIELA USA Press Release, May 18, 2017
The article written by Alex Tizon regarding the story of Eudocia Pulido and her forced migration and exploitation as a modern day slave in the United States highlights the current conditions of Filipino women. Eudocia Pulido’s story cannot be understood outside of the context of the Philippine society and history rooted in U.S. imperialism and neoliberal economic policies that have caused the systemic suffering of many underpaid domestic helpers like Lola.

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world with 6,000 Filipinos—60% women—leaving the country every single day to work, because of rampant poverty, joblessness, and landlessness.

“She remains singular, even in death. Especially in death, as the author is taken aback by the grief that her return elicits among her relatives. That collective grief exposes his own limits, the lie underneath his philanthropy, the impossibility of reparation. His guilt, if that’s how you want to think about it does little to shore up his authority as the author of this text, or as the benevolent master who did right by his slave.”

Lola's Resistant Dignity (revised version of above) by Vicente Rafael, The Atlantic, May 31, 2017
She remains singular, even in death—especially in death, as the author is taken aback by the grief that her return elicits among her relatives. That collective grief surprises Tizon and exposes the limits of his own understanding of Eudocia’s life. His guilt does little to shore up his authority as the benevolent master who did right by his slave.

Tizon’s essay can be read not simply as an attempt to confess a crime and expatiate his family’s guilt. It is also a testimony to the slave’s ability to deflect the master’s appropriative power. It is as much about Tizon’s shameful secret as it is about Pulido’s resistant dignity.

“It Is Really Important to Humanize Evil” by Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, May 19, 2017
It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise “normal” people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts, and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future.

There are many more Eudocias in the U.S. who are still suffering silently at the hands of their trafficker abusers, and their stories are hardly ever known. Damayan (“helping each other” in Filipino) has worked with survivors who were trafficked by diplomats, ambassadors, and consular officers (like Francisco Tizon), as well as by wealthy businesspeople, schools, churches, and placement agencies from all around the world. Most Filipino labor trafficking survivors come to the U.S. through different visa programs, and domestic workers for diplomats come through the A3 and G5 visas. Filipinos are one of the most common sources of domestic workers in the homes of diplomats from countries such as Germany, Peru, Japan, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Turkey, and the Philippines.

“Women’s servitude blights Philippine society” by Ninotchka Rosca, BBC News, May 20, 2017
I once referred a Filipina American - who was having cash-flow problems - to house cleaning work for another friend. After a week, she quit. The pay was good, the employer was fine, but she "couldn't stand the power dynamics".

One had to be groomed - by culture, by tradition, by authority - into servitude.

“On Alex Tizon’s ‘Lola’” by Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, May 19, 2017
The worst aspect of the dehumanization of slavery is when it's based not on race, but class. Anyone is susceptible if they're poor.

“56 Years a Slave” by Caroline Hau, ikangablog, May 20, 2017
we are no longer talking about sixteenth-century or even nineteenth-century slavery. The national liberation struggles, the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements, the workers’ movements, the feminist and other social and political movements from all over the world since then have helped create a world where what happened to Lola Eudocia and the oppression of so many other people all over the world can no longer be condoned, and what is needed is not just understanding and individual initiatives to redress the situation–laudable as Alex Tizon’s efforts to make amends to Lola Eudocia had been–but larger systemic and structural changes such as better enforcement of laws and regulations and better protection of the vulnerable and the poor.

What exactly are the “politics” and “economics” of the utusan question and why is the utusan system so pernicous and long-lasting, despite the progress in our political and social values?

“Slavery in our time” by Jenny Ortuoste, Manila Standard, May 18, 2017
"This is because abject servitude and warped loyalty to benefactors is still a part of our societal mindset. These are repellent and reprehensible attitudes that we must do away with, if we are to aspire to the highest standards of human rights and values."

“Don’t Pretend to Understand Lola Pulido’s Situation” by Mike Ricca, Esquire Philippines, May 18, 2017
There’s a cultural context to Lola’s enslavement that non-Filipinos can never understand.

“We are all Tizons” by Shakira Sison, Rappler, May 19, 2017
I was my yaya's baby, and as an adult I now understand that my love for her was built on the rock of consistency, which was in turn at the expense of her social mobility. Had she been offered another viable opportunity other than mothering me and my siblings, she would have left. I would not be the person I am today if she left me. I realize that I am both indebted to her for her love, but I also benefited from her being trapped to serve me.

“Not moved” by Andrea Malaya M. Ragragio, Davao Today, May 22, 2017
…the US colonial regime actually actively reinforced such exploitative arrangements. Land laws promulgated by the Americans brought no relief and reform but simply consolidated the land ownership of a few rich families. The supposedly democratic legislature set up by the Americans was a landlord-dominated old boys’ club. Peasant revolts were brutally crushed. Aristocratic family values that demanded unquestioning fealty from their vassals were sustained precisely because the same aristocratic families were themselves sustained by the US to be their ruling puppets.

Tizon’s realization of his Lola Eudocia’s slave status then becomes laced with supreme irony. He writes that he had this realization only in contrast to the lifestyle of his American neighbors, and his account shows that he and his family were conscious of this. They were freedom-loving Americans if not for Lola, their slave. They were a poster family for the American dream if not for Lola, their slave. These were framed as points of incompatibility. But the Filipino historical experience (and perhaps the histories of other people of color) will show that they both went hand-in-hand.

We are inhuman and human; we have the capacity to be oppressor and sub-oppressor. The truth is that we have come to believe their white supremacy. We have come to believe that if we bleached our skins as white as snow, if we jet-set across the globe with our pals like Imelda Marcos, if we have household “help” keep our homes and cars and second homes impeccably clean, then thus, we must be superior, must be anointed by God, must be blessed by divinity because of the materialistic things we own (does this not sound familiar? Never mind Jesus said it is easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven). We admire and love the colonizer, though they poison and kill and rape and ravage our land and our people. Therein lies the difference: the systems of modern-day slavery repeats and lives because Filipinos have come to believe they are superior, especially when it comes to their own.

As a writer, I will say that we back away from writing because it is hard. Stories like this must be told. In my world, Eudocia Tomas Pulido would be able to tell her own story. But also in my world, we come to resent writers for not doing what we expect them to do, make the difficult understandable. We come to resent writers, not knowing exactly how difficult it is to do this. Some writers stop trying; the anticipated backlash already being a deterrent to even getting started. And then some writers try their best.

I believe Tizon tried. Did he fail?  If his reason for writing this story was to humanize Eudocia Tomas Pulido, maybe he failed. In my world, Eudocia Tomas Pulido would be able to tell her own story as a human being with a voice.

But as writers, should we then not attempt to write these stories?

In the piece, Tizon does examine his guilt in Pulido’s enslavement and asks rhetorically whether he could have done better by her: “I could have turned in my parents, I suppose.” But many others picked up on the conciliatory tone of the article’s final sentence, its kicker: “Everybody started filing into the kitchen, puffy-eyed but suddenly lighter and ready to tell stories. I glanced at the empty tote bag on the bench, and knew it was right to bring Lola back to the place where she’d been born.”

This is the tendency toward simplification, toward resolution, that storytelling often seems to demand. As writers we feel a desire to end on a beat: upbeat or downbeat, a kicker either way. There’s an urge to simplify, to deal in dichotomies: Filipino versus American, devotion versus exploitation. The truth with which Tizon wrestled in this story is much messier. Pulido was his Lola, and she was also an enslaved woman named Eudocia. She was his slave and his parent. He loved her and exploited her. They were Filipino and American, and heir to both difficult heritages of slavery. All these things are true at once, and they cannot be collapsed into a tidy epigram. No amount of beautiful writing can disguise this.

“The Slavemaster’s Son” by Sukjong Hong, THE NIB, May 18, 2017
…in America, we are told that slavery is over. Tizon tried to tell us it is not, but he also showed us, inadvertently, how deftly it moves to sustain and exonerate itself.

This is something we need to recognize in order to clear space for Eudocia’s story—and the many others like her who go unnamed.

“Why the obituary for Eudocia Tomas Pulido didn’t tell the story of her life in slavery by Susan Kelleher, Seattle Times, May 17, 2017 (Also interesting Comments section)
In Tizon’s written account, Ms. Pulido wasn’t “asked” to care for his mother. She was “given” to her. And everything that happened to Ms. Pulido from that day forward is tied to that act of inhumanity.

A big factor is also that she didn't send them money. In that way, she wasn't felt.

As bad as it sounds to make it seem that someone is only good for their money, when you can't have deep personal relations – especially before, when there was no internet yet – what you send home is the next best thing.

Your presence is made felt by the money sent door-to-door, or the balikbayan boxes (care packages) that you await eagerly for a whole week, back when there was no way to track a package. Your presence was felt by the contents of that care package: the imported soaps, lotions, canned goods, and the new clothes which served the double purpose of wrapping fragile items like shot glasses and mirrors.

“Lola Wasn’t Alone” by Ai-Jen Poo, The Atlantic, May 19, 2017

Cecilia Brainard’s Reaction to Alex Tizon’s “A Slave in My Family”, May 20, 2017

"Alex Tizon’s final act of courage" by Boying Pimentel, Philippine Inquirer, May 23, 2007
Alex’s essay […] does not try to highlight their earlier attempts to help Eudocia Pulido. “I can only speculate that what he really wanted to draw out was the atrocity,” Albert [Alex’s younger brother] said.

… And because Alex found the courage and strength tell that story, a spirited, meaningful, if sometimes nasty, conversation on slavery and class in Filipino society has begun.

“Eudocia Pulido had hopes, dreams, and fears too” by Lian Buan, Rappler, May 24, 2017
Eudocia, or "Cosiang" to her relatives in Mayantoc, Tarlac, had prepared for her most-awaited and most deserved homecoming, according to her niece 68-year-old Lolita "Ebia" Pulido-Gabertan.

"Impatpatulod na agijay dadduma nga paglutwan tapno nu agawid den, adda paglutwan na, inin-inot nga impatpatulod," Ebia said in Ilocano. (She sent her baking tools one by one so that when she comes home, she can use them to cook.)

After 68 years of labor in America, 56 of which were unpaid, Cosiang was contented to settle in her relatives' simple home in Barangay Carabaoan where she wished to revive the old sari-sari store and sell her specialty, puto, or steamed rice cake.