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Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Gris-Gris, which includes my poems “The Ladder” and “Clock Affirmations.”

“The Ladder” is dedicated to my friend Christine Maloy whose passing is also commemorated in my second chapbook, Corpus Christi Octaves.

This issue also includes work by Alejandro Escudé, Kristen Jackson, and Stanley Rubin among other stellar work. Read the issue here.

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Also, here’s the link to my latest What’s Poetry Got to Do With It? column published on the Cinncinati Review blog.

This time around I go into a few of the connections that I see between poetry and meditation. Here’s a brief excerpt from the conclusion:

Attention, which in meditation talk is often termed mindfulness or awareness, is invaluable to poetry. By having us pay attention to words, poems open ways for us to pay attention to the world.

Read the rest here.

See you Friday!

José

This week I’m happy to share a translation of a poem by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro. What moves me about this week’s poem is how closely the logic of the lines play out some of Huidobro’s ideas on poetry. For Huidobro, the poet was a “maker” and creator of “new worlds that never existed before, that only the poet can discover.”*

An example of what this thinking looks like in a poem can be seen in the first two lines: Let the verse be like a key / that opens a thousand doors. Here, the logic and imagery come together with a stunning immediacy. My first reaction in reading these lines was a professional envy; I mean, were they my lines, I might have just stopped at these two lines and called it a poem!

But Huidobro (with better sense than me, obvs) forged ahead, delivering an ars poetica that enacts in poetry what it would have poetry do. Often an ars poetica will be lost in abstraction and an attempt at a grand statement. Here, Huidobro doubles down in grand statements, the effect being a poem that keeps creating its ideas before the reader.

vanishing_venice_-_patrick_hughes

Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

Que el verso sea como una llave
Que abra mil puertas.
Una hoja cae; algo pasa volando;
Cuanto miren los ojos creado sea,
Y el alma del oyente quede temblando.

Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
El adjetivo, cuando no da vida, mata.

Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
El músculo cuelga,
Como recuerdo, en los museos;
Mas no por eso tenemos menos fuerza:
El vigor verdadero
Reside en la cabeza.

Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh Poetas!
Hacedla florecer en el poema ;

Sólo para nosotros
Viven todas las cosas bajo el Sol.

El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.

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Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

translated by José Angel Araguz

Let the verse be like a key
that opens a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something passes in flight;
whatever the eyes see, let it be created,
and the soul of the listener be shaken.

Invent new worlds and take care of your word;
the adjective, failing to give life, kills.

We are in the age of nerves.
The muscle hangs,
like a memory, in the museums;
but that is not why we have less strength:
true vigor
resides in the mind.

Why do you sing the rose, oh Poets!
make it flower in a poem;

just for us
all things live under the sun.

The poet is a little God.

*

Happy arte-ing!

José

*These quotes are from the introduction to The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro (New Directions).

The Purpose of Nuns – Judith Ortiz Cofer

As a young girl attending Sunday mass,
I’d watch them float down the nave
in their medieval somberness, the calm
of salvation on the pink oval of their faces
framed by tight-fitting coifs. They seemed above
the tedious cycle of confession, penance
and absolution they supervised: of weekday dreams
told to a stranger on a Saturday; of Sunday sermons long
as a sickroom visit, and the paranoia of God always
watching you — that made me hide under my blanket
to read forbidden fictions.

Some of us were singled out for our plainness,
our inclination to solitude, or perhaps —
as our mothers hoped in their secret hearts —
our auras of spiritual light only these brides
of quietness could see in us. We were led to retreats,
where our uninitiated footsteps were softened,
and our heartbeats synchronized, becoming one
with the sisters’. In their midst, we sensed freedom
from the worry of flesh — the bodies of nuns
being merely spirit slips under their thick garments.
There was also the appeal of sanctuary in a spotless mansion
permeated with the smells of baked bread, polished wood
and leather-bound volumes of only good words.
And in the evenings, the choral mystery of vespers
in Latin, casting the final spell of community over us.

The purpose of nuns was to remind us
of monochrome peace in a world splashed in violent colors.
And sometimes, exhausted by the pounding demands
of adolescence, I’d let my soul alight
on the possibility of cloistered life, but once the sky
cleared, opening up like a blue highway to anywhere,
I’d resume my flight back to the world.

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This week I am proud to feature the above poem by Puerto Rican American writer, Judith Ortiz Cofer, who recently passed away. Her work in prose and poetry helped to pave the way for a culturally infused and aware literary tradition that continues today.

The above poem works a subtle magic through the speaker’s impression of the nun figure. The stakes of the poem lie not in accurately portraying nuns, but rather in giving a sense of the strict world the speaker lived in growing up (first stanza), and then exploring how the perceived idea of the nun’s life offered relief from that strictness. There is a power to lines like: The purpose of nuns was to remind us / of monochrome peace in a world splashed in violent colors that works via contrast; if the nun is the idealized figure, then the speaker themselves lives in the world of “violent colors.” So much of life is looking for hope wherever we can find it, and sometimes a poem or a community can open up something inside you “like a blue highway to anywhere,” until you find yourself able to move, and dream, forward. Cofer’s work, here and elsewhere, made possible such empowered dreaming to happen for myself and others.

Reading the poem above the first time years ago inspired my own poem, “The Nun’s Lament,” which is included in my chapbook, Reasons (not) to Dance. I remember being stunned into a new revision of what became the poem below after reading Cofer.

bird-sketch

The Nun’s Lament – José Angel Araguz

after Judith Ortiz Cofer

One night, I saw the figure of a man making his way towards my window. I had been looking across the roof of the chapel, stark in white moonlight. I closed my eyes, stood still, how long, I cannot say. The figure of the man, there behind my eyelids, flashed from shadow arms swinging, clambering across the roof, to a shadow flock of birds stirring in the air in unison, all but one taking off away from me. The one shot straight to me, past me, left me heavy, my pulse beating like wings inside. What I heard was not coming closer, was not hurting me, what I heard was restless. I had become a cloister for the heart, a space where the heart waited, idle, mid-flight. When I opened my eyes, there was the roof, clear, and a train in the distance, its whistle bursting.

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Happy dreaming!

José

Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Right Hand Pointing which includes my poem “Naos Explains Lying.”

* naos to meet you *

* naos to be here *

This poem is another in a new series of poems in the persona of Naos, a character I explored originally in my digital chapbook Naos: an introduction which can be read online.

Special thanks to Guest Editor Brad Rose for selecting my poem and to everyone at Right Hand Pointing for letting Naos hang out for awhile more.

See you Friday!

José

 

Time once again for my end of year reading here on the Influence! This year has left me with much to be grateful for, from readings in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas (Del Mar, TAMUCC, & Moody High – órale!) to getting to be the Visiting Writer at Adelphi University’s Alice Hoffman Young Writers Retreat as well as participate in my second CantoMundo.

I am especially grateful for the journals and presses and their respective editors that have worked with me this year and helped bring more of my work out into the world. Lastly, I want to say thanks to everyone who reads this blog as well as to the community of writers, readers, and friends (three words for the same thing, no?) that have reached out to me regarding my work. When things get dark, as they often did in 2016, community and words bring me back to light.

book of flight cover     Divorce Suite pic IG

For this end of year reading, I have chosen selections from my two chapbook publications of 2016, The Book of Flight (Essay Press) and The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks).

From The Book of Flight (which can be read for free on the Essay Press site) I am reading pages 2 through 5. From The Divorce Suite (available for purchase from Red Bird Chapbooks), I am reading the poems below. I learned a lot working with both presses bringing these projects to fruition. Special thanks especially to Andy Fitch, Aimee Harrison, and Maria Anderson of Essay Press, and Eric Hove and Sarah Hayes of Red Bird Chapbooks. And a warm thanks to Pam Dick for writing the intro essay to Flight and selecting it for publication!

 

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The Particular Life – José Angel Araguz

The oak chest holds the scent
of the tree it was made from,
everything placed inside
comes out thick with the smell:
traces on blankets, letters,
notebooks that even closed
show at the edge of the pages
the blot and blurring
of fine lines, a photo
I’d neglected to
rip up with the rest
after the divorce, a shot
where I stand younger
than I am now, smiling,
and then only half-way,
the rest of my face pulled in
as if inhaling deep,
taking in the particular
life that passes
no matter the effort
to shut it away.

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Rose Song – José Angel Araguz

“…the rose is out of town” – E. Dickinson

The rose is out of town,
and the wine has moved away.
The wedding ring won’t glint,
the river won’t let it.
Perfumes won’t call me back.
The candle’s on a walk,
lets shadow fill the shelves.

Our secrets tell themselves,
while worries stay to talk.
The wedding dress is slack.
The coat hooks comfort it.
Lost buttons try to hint,
there is no other way.
The rose is out of town.

*

Happy flighting and suiteing!

José

I Collected Dead Things As A Child – Nita Penfold

starting with insects, variegated and delicate,
pinned carefully into the cigar box —
iridescent Tiger beetle, round striped bumble bee,
green stick figure of a praying mantis —
my whispers to them went unanswered.

Then a pheasant wing with my feathers like intricate lace
in the wild thrush colors of earth;
turtle shell green and mosaic-patterned,
raw fleshy part inside rotted away;
small skull I could cradle in my hand,
its bone tarnished with a dark shine.

Each one a message from something large
that beat against my eyelids at dusk
dusting them with mystery.

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the-absence-front-cover613This week I am sharing excerpts from a new anthology offering variations on the theme of drought entitled The Absence of Something Specified which features a strong range of poets including Emily Rose Cole, Carrie Etter, John Sibley Williams, and Laura Madeline Wiseman among others. The editors have collected poems that range from a direct treatment of the subject of drought to how it plays out as a metaphor in people’s intellectual and physical lives.

The poem above navigates its meanings through both the mind and body. I’m moved by the way each stanza of the poem knocks on imagery and physicality for something beyond. Whether it is “whispers…unanswered” or the “dark shine” of bone, the absence of the anthology’s title is engaged with a near-spiritual directness and fascination. The poem ends with a turn: the speaker senses their interrogation “beat against my eyelids at dusk,” and the analytical world becomes mysterious again via physical means.

I share my own contribution to the anthology below. My poem, “Reading Hunger” (originally published in Gulf Coast), comes from my experience of reading Knut Hamsun’s stark and stoic novel, Hunger.

Special thanks to the editors – Quinton Hallet, Colette Jonopulos, Laura LeHew, and Cheryl Loetscher – for putting together such a fine collection of poems!

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Reading Hunger – José Angel Araguz

after Knut Hamsun

He calls it: the festival of what is not eternal,
then goes on describing
an old man’s eyes
as being made of dry horn,

and you can see it,
the almost animal beauty in each person
when unaware of anyone around.

Each person’s solitude bubbles up
like a spring,

a short-lived light
over rocks.

As the rock dries,
the dark gives
more and more gray.

Soon, you will be like this: rock, no water.

*

Happy bubbling!

José

Just a quick post to share that my poem, “Cazar Means to Hunt Not to Marry,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by December Magazine. This poem is part of my second collection, Small Fires, forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

This poem can be read at December Magazine’s site along with the other stellar nominees here.

Thank you to December Magazine for the support and community!

See you Friday!

José

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