This week I want to share this short interview courtesy of Miriam’s Well. Poet extraordinaire, Miriam Sagan, was kind enough to send 3 solid questions my way, and I did my best to say something decent.
Hope everyone’s holidays went well. See you next Friday!
3 Questions for Jose Angel Araguz
December 21, 2013 — Miriam Sagan
1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
The simplest answer I can give to this question is that it comes and it goes like the tides.
There are times when I know exactly what a poem is doing, what the line should be, and am able to gather my sensibility around that feeling. Then there are times where I keep on writing but the feeling for the line recedes, I am left with the rocks and debris of the feeling pulling away.
Line, for me, is a mix of intuition and nerve.
Intuition in that I write from myself past myself, into a space where something is being said (as opposed to my trying to say something). On a good day I end up with something that I can’t trace the origin of. Nerve comes into play right alongside intuition – it is the nerve to make choices, to push further, to cross out a whole page (I write longhand) and start over with a handful of words. Constant experimentation keeps both intuition and nerve healthy.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your
writing and your body?
Writing has always been a very physical thing for me. The lyric is musical at heart. As a child, my aunt would get after me for humming and singing to myself as we went grocery shopping. Couldn’t tell you what the music was, I just liked the motion and emotion possible.
This feel for motion and emotion settled into an obsession which I eke a little more out of each day. The sounds of words, the turns of phrases in conversation, everything feeds it. The eye may sleep, but the ear stays awake. Ultimately, it boils down to writing that is clear like music. And what is music but noise set apart, sounds put into their own context?
When I read a new poet, I keep this in mind. What is their music? What is mine?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
No. Everything that makes writing difficult tends to be peripheral and irrelevant: bills, career(s), envy, ambition, etc. In terms of being a poet – and I am only most a poet during those moments tangled in intuition and nerve described above – there is only the work. The work at hand, the work to come. Poetry is work that works itself out. We’re just along for the ride.
The short prose poem below came to mind as I answered the question regarding writing and the body. For me, the revelation in the writing of the poem comes towards the end. The image the poem centers on is taken up and the sense of being engulfed is evoked in just a sentence. Writing to that end was something physical and real.
On a clear night, the moon looks down and finds itself reflected, all of its light cast in the shape of the world, a radiance that surrounds and cups as if hands, as if praying, as if drinking.
So: remember all that paper that was under my desk two weeks ago that I cleared out just last week?
Well, now there’ s this:
I handed this over to Ani earlier this week.
I’ve been busy working on a few different projects since school let out, hermitted away at my desk, coming away excited each night, talking her ear off about this concept or that change. It’s a terrifying stack: the soul in a ream of paper.
This week’s poem by Dorianne Laux deals with all manner of nakedness. What stands out is how the nakedness pointed out by the poet is the nakedness that is apparent in a straightforward sense, something of the inner being exposed through the particulars of its outer being.
Sharing the stack of papers visually – and literally, with a reader – carries with it similar feelings of nakedness.
The Nakedness of Things – Dorianne Laux *
There is nothing more naked than a cactus, its green skin exposed, the enlarged pores from which each spiny hair sprouts. Nothing so naked as a wave lifting its frothy dress to show off one glassy blue thigh. The pliers spreads its legs, sheathed in red rubber stockings, displays its shiny metal crotch, cold to the touch. A dab of kerosene behind an ear of glowing coal and it splays open, twisting in a pit, like the frayed wilderness of sex. Nothing naked as the rain, dragging its fingers over the mountain’s bare breasts or music undressing itself in the air. Look, it’s everywhere, the world undone, naked as the day it was born.
To remind everyone, here was the state of my desk last week:
And, true to my word, here is what it looks like this week:
That is Milton, our apartment’s guard sheep, doing a final inspection of my clean-up.
I had to sneak up on him – he has a no-camera policy while on the job. I got a stern reprimand afterwards. All in the name of blogdom.
As well as the treat of cleaning, I also allowed myself the treat of sitting down to a book of poetry.
One of my favorite things to do is to sit down and read a whole book of poems straight through.
(Think of the rarity: a Virgo in one place for an extended period of time – I can barely sit still in class. At least I get to pace as I teach.)
It is also, for me, one of the marks of a good book of poems, that it keeps you reading, engages you to the end. In France they refer to books as bricks – that’s what I’m talking about!
I am happy to report that Eduardo C. Corral’s collection, Slow Lightning, was successful on all accounts.
The prose poem below is one of the spookiest poems I read in a while. Like: finding your own first and last name on a gravestone spooky. Corral is quickly becoming one of my new favorite writers. His work takes on the political without sacrificing the personal.
Immigration and Naturalization Service Report #46 – Eduardo C. Corral
After the body was bagged and whisked away, we noticed a scarlet pelt on the sand. “This guy had it nice, sleeping on a pelt for days,” Ignacio joked. He paused mid-laugh, bent down, ran his hand through the fur. One of his fingers snagged. “This isn’t a pelt, it’s a patch of wolf ears,” he said. “No, they’re too large,” I replied. “Then they must be coyote ears,” he murmured. Sweat gathered in the small of my back. “Ignacio, should we radio headquarters?” I asked. Two ears rose slowly from the patch. I said a few more words. Nothing. I uttered my own name. Two more ears unfurled. We stepped back from the patch, called out the names of our fathers and mothers. Ramon. Juana. Octavio. More and more ears rose. Rodolfo. Gloria…
It’s the last week of classes here at UC. I can read the strain on my students’ faces. I, personally, am not at all stressed.
The above is what it looks like under my desk presently. What in August was a slight stack of scratch paper has, uhm, well…scratched into more. Is there yeast in paper? That’s besides the point.
Mind you, the above may not look like much but I’m a Virgo and OHMYGODTHERE’SPAPERSONTHEFLOORI’MTHEWORSTPERSONEVER!
Seriously, I’m doing ok. Only one major paper left to do. I am making it my goal, dear readers, to have both the paper done and my desk area clean by this time next week. I’ll keep you posted.
For now, please enjoy the fine sentiment of the following poem by Canadian poet Alden Nowlan.
What moves me most in it is the surprise made possible through the control of dialogue. It seems deceptively simple, but this poem carries a lot of nuance as well as heart.
It’s Good to be Here – Alden Nowlan
I’m in trouble, she said
to him. That was the first
time in history that anyone
had ever spoken of me.
It was 1932 when she
was just fourteen years old
and men like him
worked all day for
one stinking dollar.
There’s quinine, she said.
That’s bullshit, he told her.
Then she cried and then
for a long time neither of them
said anything at all and then
their voices kept rising until
they were screaming at each other
and then there was another long silence and then
they began to talk very quietly and at last he said
well, I guess we’ll just have to make the best of it.
While I lay curled up,
my heart beating,
in the darkness inside her.
Happy ignoring what the floor looks like for another week!