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akiko_yosano_youngerThis week I’m sharing tanka by Yosano Akiko as translated by Roger Pulvers.* In a previous post about her work, I focused on the role of tension in her poems. This time around, I have selected tanka that shift narratives midway.

Line by line, the three poems below develop their narrative arc, only to shift in the last two lines. This nuanced skill allows for shifts in perspective (first tanka), a shift in rhetoric (second), or a sudden shift in action (third). Each is a little drama that is accessible to the reader without losing any of its lyrical intimacy.

Two stars deep into heaven
Whispering love
Behind the nighttime curtain
While down below, now, people lie
Their hair in gentle disarray…

夜の帳にささめき尽きし星の今を下界の人の鬢のほつれよ

*

Made to punish men for their sins
The smoothest skin
The longest black hair…
All that
Is me!

罪おほき男こらせと肌きよく黒髪ながくつくられし我れ

*

The girl in a springtime window
Calls to awaken a young priest
Barely a man
His sutras toppled
By her dangling sleeve

うらわかき僧よびさます春の窓ふり袖ふれて經くづれきぬ

akiko_and_tekkan_yosano

Pulvers’ article ends with a final tanka which he prefaces by sharing how the poem was born out of Akiko’s husband, Tekkan, wanting “her to apply his blood to her lips as lipstick.” The manner in which Akiko describes and seizes upon how quickly physical things change reflects the emotional change and reaction to this strange, if intimate, request.

What will come into my burning lips?
You answer…
“The blood from my little finger.”
But that blood is too dry now
For my mouth

もゆる口になにを含まむぬれといひし人のをゆびの血は涸れはてぬ

*

Happy tanka-ing!

José

*Check out Roger Pulvers’ full article & translations here.

P.S.: Check out the giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

american-flag-795306_960_720Just a quick post to announce that my poem “American Studies” has just been published at Terrain: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments (link includes audio)!

This poem is part of Terrain.org’s “Letter to America” Series which “presents urgent, powerful, and beautiful post-election responses from writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers across the United States.” This series so far includes contributions from a list of notable writers including JM Miller, Jane Hirshfield, and Tara L. Masih. Read more about the series here.

It means a lot to me to get this poem out into the world as it has helped me channel some of the grief, fear, and complicated emotions I’ve been dealing with post-election.

Special thanks to Simmons Buntin for the opportunity!

See you Friday!

José

keroseneJust a quick post to announce the publication of my essay “Snapshots From a Year Without Electricity” in Art + Money!

Art + Money is a free monthly newsletter in which writers and artists talk about how money shapes their lives. (No spam. Just crazy-great original essays.) Sign up here: http://tinyletter.com/catbaab/

“Snapshots From a Life Without Electricity” moves in small “snapshot” paragraphs through some of the pivotal moments of the year I lived in my friend Dennis’ house, sans electricity but with plenty of words to keep us going.*

Here’s an excerpt from my essay:

*

In this snapshot you recognize the field mouse as you last saw him. Your friend laughs at you whenever you come to him agitated after hearing the mouse scurry through the unused kitchen. There’s nothing for him there. Let him look around. After months of the mouse eating through books, shelves covered in what could be mistaken for confetti, the aftermath of words being ripped and ground until they weigh thick in ink and pulp inside his belly, you stand frozen here, as if mirroring the mouse. Anyone else looking in would think each still figure waited for the other to begin explaining everything; anyone else would wonder who in this snapshot is unable to move on.

*

Art + Money is published by my longtime friend and fellow writer Catherine Baab-Muguira. My essay has the honor of being the second installment.

Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to check out the rest!

See you Friday!

José

*(This friendship is also the subject of one of the sequences of my chapbook Corpus Christi Octaves).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

mucha-muchacha-too-much-girlThis week’s poem comes from CantoMundista Leticia Hernández-Linares’ collection Mucha Muchacha/Too Much Girl (Tía Chucha Press) which I reviewed earlier this week. While my review focused on collection’s confluence of musical traditions and sensibilities, the poem “Bringing Up the Sun” represents another facet, that of establishing the presence of a neighborhood on the page.

In this poem, Hernández-Linares brings the Mission District alive for the reader, focusing on the political undertones that pervade these streets, from the flags to local businesses. For example, the image in the lines

Mortuaries abound,
doors wide open like the defeated mouth of a mother
who has lost her son —

establishes a sense of what is at stake in this particular poem as well as sets up the narrative of assessing what it means to raise sons in this neighborhood. This narrative, homieimplied in the title’s wordplay, is developed here into one of my favorite moments in the collection when the speaker pushes against the “storylines” of the neighborhood through the imagery of “homie dolls.” By juxtaposing the implied social “translations” of these novelty toys against the lessons of redemption and vulnerability of the schoolyard, the poem evokes the tension surrounding young boys without trying to solve it. Thus, the celebration of culture inherent in the toys exists side by side the hope “salvaged” in the schoolyard.

*

Bringing Up the Sun – Leticia Hernández-Linares

The changing of the flag waves Central American
today. Church bells sit still over a tombstoned dawning.
Heading towards the sun beyond la Dolores, calle
named after pained bricks that hold Mission monuments
together, businesses that help you bury your dead, raise
your stripes, dominate the strip. Mortuaries abound,
doors wide open like the defeated mouth of a mother
who has lost her son.

No news breaks. Three quick facts on a back page,
devoid of desperate looks, gasps stopped
short — nobody of note. Nervous bravado
commands prodigal descendants of volcanic piedra,
once sacrificial daggers reduced to nonchalant weapon.
Brother competes against brother to bring the next day up.
Morning greets wringing hands, shaking heads gathering
for another entierro. Each new day
carrying heavier bags under its eyes.

Flattened metal versions of obsidian scratching out
our sons’ storylines. So many translations of a boy
in the making, made like tiny rubber homie dolls
we spin out for fifty cents.
We salvage hope in the school yard,
where little brothers you can’t get for two quarters
shake hands after getting mad, can’t wait to go ice skating,
tell stories about 500-year-old grandfathers.

On the other side of bright blue school walls that give guise
to us, mortuaries fly flags for good business. Boys start asking
which set of colors belong to them. Stripes block
the light so false emblems sneak in, peddling allegiance,
sacrifice, in the form of our sons.

When I ask after the sun, the old man shrugs.
Es que no sé hija, the flag, the flag was in the way.

*

Happy homie-ing!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

rovefall2016-logo2-3Just a quick post to announce the publication of the latest issue of Rove, a digital broadside quarterly!

Check out “The Rhetoric of Todo” , from my Nada Poems sequence, rendered as a beautiful digital broadside in this issue.

I am happy to have this poem presented alongside stellar work by Miriam Bird Greenberg, Tyler Brewington, and Katie Hibner. Check out the issue here.

Special thanks to Donika Kelly, Elizabeth Barnett, and Monte Holman at Rove!

See you Friday!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

mucha-muchacha-too-much-girlJust a quick note to share my review of Mucha Muchacha/Too Much Girl (Tía Chucha Press) which can be read at Queen Mob’s Tea House!

Special thanks to Ruben Quesada & Erik Kennedy of QMTH for the opportunity and insight!

See you Friday!

José

*

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

I chose this week’s poem “In Praise of Surfaces” by Lisel Mueller in hopes of providing some further uplift after last week’s election. I say uplift but don’t mean dismissal or acceptance, words that keep arising in the conversations between my wife and I late into the night. Some part of us has grown quiet and we keep talking to bring it back.

Mueller’s poem is fitting as it centers on praise, which is a similar kind of reaching out. In each section of the poem, Mueller’s speaker displays a deft sensitivity not only to touch but to the ways language can touch such “surfaces.” If, as the speaker notes, “one flesh is all / the mystery we were promised,” then one praises mystery in praising the body’s surfaces. This urgency is carried through down through the final section’s skin diver conceit, where effort is placed behind the need for the speaker to “collect” the beloved  “rock by wet rock” and word by word.

underwater-23040_960_720

In Praise of Surfaces – Lisel Mueller

I

When I touch you
with hands or mouth,
I bless your skin,
the sweet rind
through which you breathe,
the only part
I can process.  Even
that branch of you
which moves inside me
does not deliver your soul:
one flesh is all
the mystery we were promised.

II

“To learn about the invisible,
look at the visible,” says
the Talmud.  I have seen you
for so long, you are
ground into the walls,
so long I can’t remember
your face when you’re away,
so long I have to look
each night when you come home
at the tall surprise you bring
me, time and time again.

III

Words too are surfaces
scraped or shaken loose.
When I listen to you
I pick up rocks,
shells, algae
brought up from darkness.
Sometimes I
come close to catching
a fish bare-handed;
angling, I always fail.
No skin diver, I
could never reach bottom;
rock by wet rock,
piecemeal,
I collect you.

*

Happy collecting!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

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