* new book review up at the Volta Blog

a third instance

Just a quick post to share my latest book review for The Volta Blog. This review (which can be read here) is my take on A Third Instance, a collection of three chapbooks by Rosa Alcalá, Craig Watson, and Elisabeth Whitehead published by Instance Press.

See you Friday!

Jose

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* happy crow-lidays via claribel alegria

Ars Poetica – Claribel Alegria

I,
poet by trade,
condemned so many times
to be a crow,
would never change places
with the Venus de Milo:
while she reigns in the Louvre
and dies of boredom
and collects dust
I discover the sun
each morning
and amid valleys
volcanoes
and debris of war
I catch sight of the promised land.

crow

Keeping it short this week with this favorite from Claribel Alegria. The directness of the lyric, how it dives straight into its metaphor and subverts the jab of “crow” into something powerful, never fails to give me hope and animo.

Also, any excuse to sketch up a crow, no?

I wish everyone a safe holiday!

Stay tuned for the End of Year Reading next week in which I’ll share audio excerpts from Everything We Think We Hear (available on Amazon )!

Happy discovering!

José

 

* salvaging with kay ryan

Salvage – Kay Ryan

The wreck
is a fact.
The worst
has happened.
The salvage trucks
back in and
the salvage men
begin to sort
and stack,
whistling as
they work.
Thanks be
to god—again—
for extractable elements
which are not
carriers of pain,
for this periodic
table at which
the self-taught
salvagers disassemble
the unthinkable
to the unthought.

20151211_234610

What I love about the lyric above by Kay Ryan is how much complication it holds in its short lines. Between casual observation and straight fact, there are worlds living side by side. The “unthinkable” happens, then others get to “whistling as/they work.” Poems like these show the necessary work of poets and their asbestos gloves, able to hold volatile and conflicting materials via imagery and metaphor, and make from them a flash and foundation of understanding.

***

Ani and I have been going through our own process of “salvaging” what we can from the “unthinkable” for about a week now. Last Friday evening, round-the-clock construction began at the intersection near us. Above is a photo taken around midnight Saturday. That’s a spotlight lighting the way for the poor guys out there doing their job. There was a brief respite from Sunday night til Tuesday morning, when work started up again. By Tuesday afternoon, we had this scene:

20151216_172408

Count’em: that’s three heavy-duty machines moving around, rattling the apartment building, making us feel like dinosaurs are roving outside our window. This stage of construction is only from 8:30am til 5:30pm each day. At night, steel plates are lined up along the street which sound like thunder every time a car passes over them. THOSE we hear at night.

Each of us is coping as best we can. Ani’s begun coming up with stories about “Mr. Scoopy” and I keep wondering if these guys will get the holiday off next week. We’re told the work should be done by Christmas Eve. We’ll be in “salvaging” mode til then.

***

Speaking of things under construction, things have cleared up regarding my new book, Everything We Think We Hear. It is officially available on Amazon (again)!

I’ll keep bookending the Friday posts with book info throughout December. I’m happy to report that I have booked a few readings in my hometown Corpus Christi, TX in March. Also, I have some news about things coming up in Spring 2016. More details on all of this soon!

Happy salvaging!

Jose

* existing with gisela kraft & an update

 

five-story house in laleli – Gisela Kraft

one lies in rags on the street
and his stomach is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits with friends at tea and backgammon
and his mind is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits in a straight-backed chair at a desk
and his bank account is empty
and he wishes for death

one lies in bed staring out to sea
and the place next to him in bed is empty
and he wishes for death

one flies back with food in its beak
and its nest is empty
and only this one says
we should give it another try

(trans. Laura Leichum)

This short lyric has quickly become a favorite of mine in the past few weeks. I’m charmed by the way the seemingly simple refrain quickly enters into allegory. The repetitions of “empty” and “death” build up an atmosphere of dejection and set up the turn at the end of the poem. The impersonal and non-specific nature of “one” as an address allows for the final stanza’s change in perspective; something “flies” in the heart of the reader and defies the preceding stanzas of emptiness and death, and gives further impetus to exist. There’s also a structural charm to the poem in the way the “five-story house” is played out in the five stanzas of the poem.

***

It has been a week since the official release of my collection Everything We Think We Hear. Since then, I have been humbled and moved by the warm reception and good wishes people have shown the new book. Thank you to all who have shown interest and bought the book!

After some minor issues, the book is available for order on Amazon!

As part of a partly superstitious and partly practical (or so I tell myself) process, I went ahead and ordered myself a copy. Here’s a pic that shows that my little book does indeed exist:

This copy is going straight to mom in Texas. I’ll make sure to post an update here when I receive my own copies for sale.

Happy existing!

José

 

* a revisit, prose poem thoughts, & thanks

Footnote – James Schuyler

 

The bluet is a small flower, creamy-throated, that grows in patches in New England lawns. The bluet (French pronunciation) is the shaggy cornflower, growing wild in France. “The Bluet” is a poem I wrote. The Bluet is a painting of Joan Mitchell’s. The thick blue runs and holds. All of them, broken-up pieces of sky, hard sky, soft sky. Today I’ll take Joan’s giant vision, running and holding, staring you down with beauty. Though I need reject none. Bluet. “Bloo-ay.”

Tiny_Bluets

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about James Schuyler’s “The Bluet” which he references in the prose poem above. I just discovered the above poem in a prose poem anthology I’m reading for my exams. I marvel at how much of Schuyler’s human fascination comes through in both his poem and “footnote.” The added information here, both of pronunciation (I’ve been saying it “blue-it” as in I really blew it with that pronunciation) and of Mitchell’s artwork, adds layers to Schuyler’s ongoing meditation on the bluet. Both in lyric and in prose, the flower is turned over, “running and holding” for both Schuyler and reader.

Earlier this week, I posted about the release of my collection Everything We Think We Hear (available for purchase on Amazon). In discussing the project with friend and poet John Sibley Williams on Facebook, I found myself realizing something about the ambition of the project in its turns between prose poetry and microfiction. At one point, I wrote:

So much of what we do in a poem, prose or lineated, is about what’s unspoken, while microfiction lends itself to more narrative completion. The most apt metaphor I can think of at the moment is those jeans and hoodies that come pre-scuffed up and torn, a narrative holding but frayed.

There’s a great quote from Robert Frost about poetry books where he says that if a book of poems has 25 poems, the book as a whole should stand as the 26th. This quote has long been an inspiration behind the strategies I use in putting a manuscript together. This quote also points to the way projects can have pockets of the same idea, varying shades of the same color. In the spirit of Schuyler’s takes on the bluet, I hope variations in form and intent work out an added layer to the reading experience in Everything We Think We Hear.

Thank you to all who have reached out with kind words and good wishes on the recent publication! Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy or plans on doing so (you totally should)! And lastly, thank you to John for getting my brain thinking 🙂

Happy bluet-ing!

Jose

P.S. After all that, it’s still a painting command in my head: “blue it!”

* new collection released!!!

I’m happy to announce that my new collection Everything We Think We Hear is officially available on Amazon!

As I’ve mentioned here, this project brings the prose poem and flash fiction structure of my chapbook Reasons (not) to Dance and takes it in a more personal direction, adds a little more guacamole and South Texas to my usual rhetorical and imagistic leanings.

Here are what some of my favorite writers had to say about the project:

“What is the meaning beyond memory’s hauntings? How does one survive the multi-faceted self fashioned from such meanings? Poet José Ángel Araguz’ unflinching collection, Everything We Think We Hear, considers these questions from all angles and gives us answers as adamantine and brilliant as the prose poems he has fashioned in his questing.”

Sarah Cortéz, Councilor, Texas Institute of Letters, Author of Cold Blue Steel

“José Ángel Araguz balances the beauty and agony of a man siphoning love from beer bottles, sparse mother-son conversations, a stern Tía’s throw, and the weathered memories of an absent father. This collection, where a boy who couldn’t dream becomes a man “making communion with all he knows,” insists you gaze on lo raro, the sour-pickled and scattered parts of a soul who refuses to ignore the song of the broken even when surrounded by splendor. “

Peggy Robles-Alvarado, author of Homenaje a las guerreras

“In José Angel Araguz’s collection, Everything We Think We Hear, todo se vale, everything goes! This book plays with our senses and forces us to consider what we think we hear, what we think we are reading. A fierce voice that shouts often and whispers now and then the many truths of life in South Texas. The poetic prose pieces startle the senses with rich images that linger in the mind like memorable dreams. Read these pieces and come away transformed.”

Norma E. Cantú, author of Canícula

Anyone interested in a copy for review, I can make a PDF available. Feel free to contact me: thefridayinfluence@gmail.com

Thank you to Sarah, Peggy, and Norma for their wonderful words of support for this project!

Special thanks as well to Roberto Cabello-Argandoña of Floricanto Press for working with me during this process!

See you Friday!

Jose

* new work up at tahoma literary review

Just a quick note to announce the release of Tahoma Literary Review’s fifth issue which includes my piece “Spiderman Hitches a Ride.” The good folks at TLR also allowed me to write a blog post giving some background to this piece: On ‘Spiderman…’

This issue also features a phenomenal lineup, including work from Kenzie Allen, Martha Silano, Lito Velázquez, and James White. A online copy of the issue can be found here, along with instructions on how to order a print copy and how to download a free e-reader edition.

Special thanks to editors Kelly Davio, Joe Ponepinto, and Yi Shun Lai for all the hard work that went into putting together an awesome issue!

See you Friday!

Jose