* some words from Basho & the friday influence

This week The Friday Influence introduces the “some words from” feature – on the last Friday of each month expect a quote or two from poets that have and are presently influencing my work or simply blowing my mind.

Our first feature: haiku poet Matsuo Basho!

Sabes sabi?

Here he is talking about the idea of sabi:

“Sabi is in the colour of a poem. It does not necessarily refer to the poem that describes a lonely scene.  If a man goes to war wearing a stout armour or to a party dressed up in gay clothes, and if this man happens to be an old man, there is something lonely about him.  Sabi is something like that.  It is in the poem regardless of the scene it describes – whether it is lonely or gay.  In the following poem, for example, I find a great deal of sabi.” *

                        Under the cherry

                        Flower guards have assembled

                        To chatter –

                        Their hoary heads together. 

In citing this poem (by one of his disciples), Basho illustrates sabi as something to be experienced, a thing to be completed through the engagement of the reader.

This attention to not only what goes in a poem but what it does in each of us is part of the reason is why I return to Basho’s work often.  He gets this poetry thing in a way that expands it, gets it in a way that shows the way for others.

He is one of the great travelers, both on the road and the word.

Here’s an excerpt from Basho’s travel journal, The Records of a Travel-worn Satchel:

“In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.  This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when i was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others.  Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another.  At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry.  The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.”

***

Happy hanging!

jose

* all quotes in this post come from Nobuyuki Yuasa’s translation of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other travel sketches.

** photos snagged from here and here, respectively.

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* special feature: Kenneth P. Gurney

This week The Friday Influence is proud to feature the work of Kenneth P. Gurney!

Ken and I struck up a friendship during my brief time in Albuquerque.  He runs the Adobe Walls Open Mic out of Page 1 Books, the used bookstore where I worked.  Once a month – while helping clean up and close – I would get to overhear the great community of poets he fosters there.

His poetry is marked by his background in art – surrealistic images abound – yet, there is always some of his sense of awe and humor throughout his work, something altogether his own.

Find out more about Ken and his poetry here.

Since moving, we have sent poems on postcards to each other.  I am happy to share some of the poems that have made getting the mail – where bills and rejection letters abound – a bit of a treat.

Missive

Missive – Kenneth P. Gurney

I wrote a letter to the earth

on the bottom of my bare feet

then walked five miles

on grassy lanes that ran

adjacent to greening fields

and two wood lots.

While resting

under the broad shade

of a century oak

I checked my soles and determined

the blue ink to be all gone

& I considered my letter delivered.

Catastrophe

Catastrophe – Kenneth P. Gurney

Spring fails to create the perfect green

as the cat laps chartreuse spilled

from the dropped shot glass

where a trail of mucky pawprints

scub across the sparkling kitchen tile

like so many clouds

unable to congregate

and expel a healthy Albuquerque rain.

***

Happy congregating!

* jose

* Sylvia Plath, boarded trains & the friday influence

Metaphors – Sylvia Plath

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

***

This week on the Influence: Sylvia Plath!

Much is made about the life of Plath, to the point that much of her work is overlooked outside of a handful of poems.  Personally, my favorite poems of hers are the ones where she shows off how much of a poetry geek she was (and by poetry geek I mean poetic virtuoso!).

This poem in particular is a marvel.  I was stumped as to what it meant or what it was doing the first few times I read it years ago.  It says nothing big, really, (not in the classroom/dig up the meaning kind of way) but in figuring out how to read it, I learned much about what a poem could do.

I read and reread the poem, and it wasn’t until I took the first line to heart – a riddle in nine syllables – that I started to see nine everywhere – nine letters in the word “Metaphors”, nine syllables per line, nine lines in the whole poem.  Which only leads into the concept of the poem – pregnancy and its nine months of effort.

Through syllabics and form, Plath is able to express several (nine!) of the facets of her experience with impending motherhood.

The poem endears itself to the poet in me that likes to work out extra layers in a poem as part of the process and overall meaning.  The cinquain tributes from a previous post are an example of this side.

here – this train’s a’coming…

In other happenings, the construction at our house has stirred some inner soul construction – specifically the decision to pursue a PhD in Creative Writing.  More on this front as it develops.  For now, I have – as the lady said – Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Happy training!

J

* strange week 2: tree yoga & cinquains

So: another strange week has come upon us.

(No – nothing to do with the election.  Well, not really.)

There has been some construction going on in our house these past two weeks, much of it occurring on my days off – which are the days that I sit down to formulate the good thoughts for my usual Friday posts.  However, I believe this week will be the last of it.  Next week, be ready for something more familiar from the Friday Influence.  This week, I have three things to share.

First: this tree.

tree yoga?

This is a tree just around the corner from the bookstore where I work.  The city boy in me marvels at the way a tree will shape itself to its surroundings.  Gives me hope – a sort of symbol for adjusting to the world while still being yourself.

***

Secondly: I am happy to report that my chapbook, The Wall, has gone into a second printing.  Thanks to all who put in orders for your support and consideration.  Thank you as well to the good folk at Tiger’s Eye Press.

***

…and lastly: some cinquains!

*

Fabric

Like the
Stitching of a
Shirt-seam when you stretch it
To see the crossing thread – so are
The clouds.

 

 

Heart

Not the
Throbbing thing in
Each of us, but something
As alive lingers in this bee’s
Dying.

 

 

Hope

A stone
Thrown and hitting
The bottom of the sea,
Where colors grow from dark – so one
Believes.

***

Happy believing!

J

* strange week & a poem

It’s been a strange week here in my world.  I promise to be back with a more regular post next week.  For now, please enjoy this poem of mine published originally in Hanging Loose, a great magazine out of Brooklyn.  More info on them can be found here.  The poem comes from my time working at Oren’s Daily Roast at Grand Central Station.
Grand Central, yo.
Directions – Jose Angel Araguz

The man asking for directions sighs when I answer him in Spanish, shakes my hand, almost hugs me. He tells me I look more Puerto Rican than Mexican but we are not all hermanos, primos, and maybe that is why I excuse him like a brother or a cousin when he points to my books and asks what I am studying and hears “la policia.” Before I can correct him, he releases another sigh and says alright, says he knew he could trust me when he saw me, says that is the best thing for a man, to be strong, to stand for something, that in this country it is like money to be a police officer, the girls love it, family approves, and your boys know they can trust you, and as he goes on about parking tickets and handcuffs, I think about all the nice things being said and whether he would say them about “la poesia” and how the thing I do study is made up of everything we think we hear.

(published originally in Hanging Loose No. 98)

Happy hearing!

J

* picture found here.