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Remember, words are the enemy of poetry.
- Russell Edson

Sometimes what’s being said has little to do with the words saying it.

This week’s piece – “Pennies” by Wolfgang Wright – is a flash fiction that develops its emotional pull subtly. The word “pennies” gathers weight throughout the short piece until it literally comes alive.

* it's all about the abrahams, baby *

* it’s all about the abrahams *

*Pennies – Wolfgang Wright

When the boy began collecting pennies in order to build a statue of his departed mother, Penny, his father did not object. When the father decided to join him, adding pennies from his collection, his friends implored him to see a psychiatrist. When the friends brought over glue to hold the statue together, they told their wives that they were going to watch the game. And when, together, they finished the statue and it came to life, sounding and behaving just like the mother, wife, and friend who was dead, they all knew that what they had done was good.

(* found in the Nostalgia issue of 5×5 – check out the rest of the issue here.)

***

Quick sidenote: Much of the fun I have writing this blog comes out of finding relevant images to juxtapose with the pieces. Here’s one I found fascinating and that kinda works as its own art piece. It’s a British coin from during the Suffragette movement era:

Happy pennying!

Jose

Just a quick post to announce the spring 2015 issue of Gris-Gris featuring my poems “Lion’s Den” (here) and “Superhero” (here).

Check out the rest of the outstanding issue featuring work by  Natasha Trethewey, Judith Skillman, and William Miller here. Thanks to Jay Udall & co. for their hard work in putting together an always engaging journal.

* den what? *

* den what? *

Also, RHINO Poetry has been starting to provide audio for poems in their 2014 issue. Check out audio for my own poem “The Ashtray” here (the text of which can be read here). Thanks to Valerie Wallace for collecting audio files.

*

See you Friday!

Jose

We Are Of A Tribe – Alberto Rios

We plant seeds in the ground
and dreams in the sky,

Hoping that, someday, the roots of one
Will meet the upstretched limbs of the other.

It has not happened yet. Still,
Together, we nod unafraid of strangers.

Inside us, we know something about each other:
We are all members of the secret tribe of eyes

Looking upward,
Even as we stand on uncertain ground.

Up there, the dream is indifferent to time,
Impervious to borders, to fences, to reservations.

This sky is our greater home.
It is the place and the feeling we have in common.

This place requires no passport.
The sky will not be fenced.

Traveler, look up. Stay awhile.
Know that you always have a home here.

***

* new anthology! *

* new anthology! *

Happy to announce the recent release of Goodbye, Mexico: Poems of Rememberance, a new anthology edited by the illustrous Sarah Cortez. The anthology includes CantoMundo fam’ Celeste Guzman Mendoza as well as Martin Espada, Jim Daniels, Larry D. Thomas, and Alberto Rios, author of this week’ poem.

I also have a poem in it :)

Along with poems, the anthology includes statements from each of the contributors on their relationship with Mexico. Here is mine:

My relationship to Mexico is one of leaving and looking back: my mother left my father in Matamoros and crossed the river into Texas to raise me, but would wonder aloud about him to me. My father, his mother, my mother’s father – each has died in my lifetime in Matamoros, and left in that way. My childhood was visits to Mexico, until the drug trafficking made travel dangerous, and so I look back in my writings at what is left in those visits.

To learn more about the anthology, check out Sarah’s site here.

Happy remembrancing!

Jose

* achaean *

* achaean on breakean *

* bridge over the Ohio *

* bridge over the Ohio *

One of the great things about reading is connecting what you read with the world around you. It’s a simple enough concept – one reads to find out what it’s like to be human – but like actually reading the assembly instructions before building something from IKEA, not everyone slows down to do it.

Luckily, there are the times where life forces you to slow down and “read” into life a bit further.

This week’s poem, “Achaeans” by friend and fellow UC poet Kevin Honold, is a good example of the kind of wide connections available if life is read closely. From the battles scenes of Homer’s Iliad to the drive to work, Honold connects the sights and sounds of the modern world with that of Homer’s time, bringing the risk and humanity of every day existence to the fore. The defiant tone at the end is complicated by the risk involved in the speaker’s line of work. In a way, the speaker is saying, after so much killing – then and now – at the end of they day, there is only the living and the dying.

Achaeans – Kevin Honold

Real crackerjacks, they were. I woke up before work
just to read how they died, how the homesick son of Hellas
aimed the ships’ eyes, painted red on the prows and
livid with froth, away from the shore where the companions lay,

where a forest of planted oars marks the graves.
When I crossed the Ohio in a pipe truck that morning
the hulls I saw spin down the green water,
helpless before a quartering wind, breaking apart

on the pylons of the Covington bridge.
I saw the survivors paddling broken oars to shore.
Potholes banged the copper pipe in the racks behind me
like the clangor of speared Achaeans rattling

in their armor as they hit the sand, cut down
by the hundred in windrows like wheat by sickles.
Homer used up all the killing similes but I got
an acetylene tank with a Turbo-Torch

and fifteen foot of hose. I can sweat copper. Fix leaks.

***

Happy Achaeaning!

Jose

p.s. “Achaeans” is from Kevin’s book Men as Trees Walking.

p.p.s. I am happy to announce that my poem “Joe” has been selected for RHINO Poetry’s 2015 Editor’s Prize. Check out the announcement here.

Well, it had to happen: we’ve reached the 200th post on this blog!

To celebrate, I decided to create a cento – a patchwork poem made by selecting lines from other people’s poems to create a singular poem (citing one’s sources, of course) – by going through all the posts published since I started this blog and selecting a line from every 10th post.

200 posts = 20 lines!

Eek!

* a mouse *

* a mouse *

Some finer points:

To stick strictly to the every 10th post guideline, I did find myself snatching a snippet or two from a post that had no poem in it. So a “line” was taken from a paragraph or two.

I’m happy to only end up in the piece a handful of times (and with good company, no less :) ).

Also: I had a lot of fun putting this together. Blogging can feel like a mess sometimes, but the accumulative effect is fun. Approaching past posts for the archival potential was inspiring.

And then there’s all you good people who stop by, read, and comment! More than anything, I am humbled by the community this blog has put me in touch with. I started this off as a reader’s blog, and I’m happy to have a forum to share not only my own work but work that illuminates my world and that I hope illuminates yours. Thanks!

Cento for the 200th post

I must learn from the stars
To find out if I might love.
Under these, under our skies.
the colors of my living
will sometimes waft between my lashes
This unwelcome act of reducing
On those nights, the poet can say they tried, and did well.
to fall asleep
“I’m so tired of driving into the sky.”
I would like to step out of my heart
stumble, welcomed each day by
Horses down in the meadow, just a few degrees above snow.
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
selected to be
something imagined, not recalled?
rigid edges and all, and lines still show up
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
They slept just like the rest of us,
like sunken leaves in a pond,
quoted in the margins

***

Happy quoting!

Jose

p.s. Sources for the Cento:

  1. Evening on the Farm – Bert Meyers
  2. Brown Penny – WB Yeats
  3. Willow – Anna Akhmatova
  4. XIX (from The Wall) – Jose Angel Araguz
  5. An Umbrella from Piccadilly – Jaroslav Seifert
  6. Onions – Jose Angel Araguz
  7. “on poetry readings” TFI post 2/15/13
  8. The Devil on His Wedding Night – Jose Angel Araguz
  9. “from the car: verse & such” TFI post 6/7/13
  10. Lament – Rainer Maria Rilke
  11. “Dog-eared” – Jose Angel Araguz
  12. On the Night of the First Snow, Thinking About Tennessee – Charles Wright
  13. Prosody 101 – Linda Pastan
  14. “quick post: CantoMundo news!” TFI post 3/19/14
  15. Epilogue – Robert Lowell
  16. If They Hand Your Remains to Your Sister in a Chinese Takeout Box — Jamaal May
  17. Sad Steps – Philip Larkin
  18. Going Home – Phoebe Tsang
  19. A Winter Night – Tomas Tranströmer
  20. Evening in Matamoros – Jose Angel Araguz
* pebblificando *

* pebblificando *

Just a quick post to share the publication of the latest issue of Right Hand Pointing entitled Crows and Cranes – dedicated to very short poems, including my own poem “Pebblescripture” which can be found here.

Check out the rest of the issue – part 1 of 2 on short poems – here.

Also, over the weekend One Sentence Poems published two of my, uhm, one sentence poems, which I happily share here:

“Evening in Matamoros”

“Caught”

The crew of Ambidextrous Bloodhound – whose projects include the journal Right Hand Pointing & One Sentence Poems – have been generous and encouraging of my work throughout the years. I can’t thank them enough. That said, thank you to Dale Wisely, Robert Scotellaro, & Laura M. Kaminski. Find out more about Ambidextrous Bloodhound’s projects here.

See you Friday!

Jose

 

BELT: Your poems do a wonderful job of transforming a city’s decay into beauty without romanticizing the image of America’s failed industrialism. How does The Rusted City set itself apart from other works that exploit or generalize the Rust Belt experience? 

Hurt: I felt it was important to write about a Rust Belt city without glorifying urban ruin or falling into nostalgia for the good old days of industry. I was born into decline, so those days were never a part of my life. In the book, I wanted to imagine a world in a miraculous return to the past wasn’t even an option — a world already made from the rust . . . The metaphoric mergers between the characters and the city’s decay prevent the Rust Belt setting from being reduced to a romantic or dramatic backdrop; these characters are their city.*

* rust in time *

* rust in time *

Reading through fellow UC colleague and friend Rochelle Hurt’s The Rusted City recently, I found myself marveling much at the ambition of the book’s central metaphor, each poem adding to the logic and myth of a world not parallel but more chipped and glinted from ours.

I include the interview excerpt above because it describes aptly what I mean by “central metaphor.” Already an engaging concept, the book’s most pleasurable moments for me are when the metaphor of a decaying city permeate into human experience.

In the poem below, one can see the unique tension of Hurt’s city-mythology at work: a childhood scene is complicated by the metaphor of the rusted city, and vice versa, in a confluence that makes for a captivating reading experience.

The Quiet Mother Cups the Favorite Father’s Ear – Rochelle Hurt

with her lip. It quivers on her tongue like a lump of pudding, a tapioca earlobe. The smallest sister is behind the wall, watching through a termite hole. She sees their hands and legs tangle into a knot of twine on the bed. When one of the hands reaches up and ties itself to the chain in the ceiling, black spills into the room. The smallest sister gasps and shreds of rust flutter from the peephole into her mouth. They snag their way down, crumpling like foil in her throat.

**

Happy rusting!

Jose

* The rest of the BELT magazine interview with Rochelle can be read here.

For more on this poet’s work, check out her site here.

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