* goodreads giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reasons (not) to Dance by Jose Angel Araguz

Reasons (not) to Dance

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends August 07, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Just a quick post to announce that I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway of my chapbook Reasons (not) to Dance (FutureCycle Press)! Check out the above links to find out how to enter.

I’m excited to try this kind of giveaway out! Looking forward to sharing my work further.

See you Friday!

José

* meditating with yannis ritsos

In my recent interview as part of my Distinguished Poet feature for The Inflectionist Review, I spend some time talking about the poet Yannis Ritsos and his poem “Protection” which I wrote about two years ago here.

I feel that ever since discovering Ritsos’s work years ago I keep coming back. The most recent return has come in the form of my morning meditations which consist of my reading poems aloud for about 5-10 minutes. I discovered this practice in talking with Ani about some of the physical struggles with meditation, how sitting in one spot and focusing on breathing can sometimes bring more anxiety and pain than, say, reading poems aloud.

Because of the role poetry has played in my life, reading poems aloud for the sheer focused pleasure of it feels like returning home. Approaching it like meditation, I let myself read as I used to growing up, sinking into the words, not worrying about exacting meaning, rather, the meaning instead rising from the active engagement with words. Giving myself over in this way, I believe, takes me to a similar place of selflessness as meditation – though I wouldn’t exactly call it a substitute or equivalent, more a cousin activity, closer to prayer.

book-glasses-letters-paper-study_defaultI made it through most of Spring reading through Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems and have moved on to Ritsos recently. In the interview, I speak of a fateful vividness in the work of Crane and Ritsos, a characteristic that can be found in the poem below. The poem’s narrative moves from a childhood scene observed from a distance, the details moving in the first two stanzas with a similar distance. The third stanza, on the other hand, zooms in and in four lines gives a fateful image that lifts the lyric beyond words on the page.

A Myopic Child – Yannis Ritsos

The other kids romped around the playground: their voices
rose up to the roofs of the quarter, also the “splock” of their ball
like a globular world, all joy and impertinence.

But he was reading the whole time, there in the spring window,
within a rectangle of bitter silence,
until he finally fell asleep on the window sill in the afternoon,
oblivious to the voices of those his own age
and to premature fears of his own superiority.

The glasses on his nose looked like
a little bike left leaning against a tree,
off in a far-flung, light-flooded countryside,
a bike of some child who had died.

*

Happy meditating!

José

* interview & poetry feature at The Inflectionist Review!

Inflectionist Review Anthology of PoetryJust a quick post to announce that I was selected for the Distinguished Poet feature for the latest issue of The Inflectionist Review! Along with a selection of poems, I also participated in an interview where I discuss my writing process as well as my views on the current state of poetry in America.

The Inflectionist Review has provided an engaging and supportive community for years now and I am proud to have my work be part of the conversation.

Special thanks to editors A. Molotkov and John Sibley Williams for their support and insightful questions!

See you Friday!

José

* where the poet is: a personal note

candle vigilIn an essay entitled “Tough Eloquence,” poet Yusef Komuyakaa writes about the life and work of Etheridge Knight. There’s a story and poem towards the end of the essay that has always stayed with me throughout the years:

“Etheridge Knight died in March 1991. For more than a year before, at various readings, he’d say a poem by Melissa Orion, “Where is the Poet?” He often used to say he wished he’d written it. Of course, he had memorized the poem, as if reciting his own elegy:

So I went to Soweto and asked the wounded
Have you seen my friend the poet?

Oh no, answered the wounded, but we’re longing to
see him
before we die

Maybe you should go to the prisons, they said
where there is loneliness, the poet should be”

Orlando has been on my mind all week, in my conversations with Ani as much as in my conversations on social media, but also in my heart, in my silences and loneliness. In my classroom, we have been having some difficult conversations about problematization and empathy, and I am proud of my students’ generosity to have these conversations, to discuss difficult issues with open minds. It’s done much for my spirit.

Through the many conversations, I have not had to wonder where the poet is. This piece by Denice Frohman as well as this poem by Roy G. Guzmán  and this one by Christopher Soto (aka Loma) have meant much to me and others this week, and I share them for anyone in need of insight, solace, or catharsis.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads this blog and shares in the community, poetry, and positive energy of the weekly posts. I write driven by a faith in poetry, in words being a place where the ideas and emotions of life that overwhelm us at times can meet,  mingle, and make a sort of sense to us, glimpses of the reality we share.

To everyone who stops by, thank you for sharing.

Abrazos,

José

* new poem up at Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review!

Just a quick post to share my poem “About Languages” originally published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review Issue 42.

Borderlands has also made available poems by Joshua Gage, Eric Fisher Stone, Celeste Guzmán Mendoza and Rosebud Ben-Oni.

Check them all out here.

Borderlands Issue 44 (pictured here) features my poem “Fisherman” and is available for purchase here.

Special thanks to Ryan Sharp and everyone at Borderlands for their continued support and community!

See you Friday!

José

* twinklings & twinges: gwendolyn brooks

breakbeat poets coverThis week, I had the opportunity to share and discuss excerpts from The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop with my intermediate composition class. Along with the poems, we also read some of the Ars Poeticas & Essays included in the anthology. Going between poems and prose allowed me to supplement the discussion with further insights into my own poetry literacy.

The following excerpt from “Art, Artice, and Artifact” by Quraysh Ali Lansana, for example, has the poet discussing Gwendolyn Brooks and her attitude towards hip-hop:

Ms. Brooks possessed a guarded optimism toward hip-hop. She appreciated rap as poetry, or at least as lyric. But, she found most of the language unoriginal and the music mostly boisterous. Ms. Brooks never employed profanity in her work. She considered swear words a reflection of a poverty of ideas, which in turn would make most rap Fat Albert’s junkyard. However, as she shared in workshop, if there is no other word that will be as precise in communicating your concept, then use that word. She believed in “exactness” and her enduring poetry bears witness to this.

This anecdote prompted me to share this week’s poem, “The Bean Eaters,” as an example of what Lansana means when he talks of Brooks believing in “exactness.” It is the exactness of her phrasing as well as the details given of this couple’s world that make this poem the compelling work of art that it is. This exactness is present even at the level of sound; the pairing of “twinklings and twinges” strikes the exact note of bittersweet memory to move a reader to put this poem away in their heart.

The Bean Eaters – Gwendolyn Brooks

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering …
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

*

Happy twinkling and twinging,

José

* mirroring & anthilling with garcía lorca

This week’s poem is a translation of a short lyric from Federico García Lorca’s Suite de los Espejos (Suite of the Mirrors). Reading through the suites, I was impressed again and again by García Lorca’s facility to estrange us from the everyday world, only to bring us back. His lyrics are infused with a purposeful sense of shock.

This particular poem hooked me in my first reading with its closing lines:

Me veo por los ocasos,
y un hormiguero de gente
anda por mi corazón.

(I see myself through the sunsets,
and an anthill of people
marches through my heart.)

Even in the brief space of three lines, this travel between something outside of human experience and something within it (in our very chests, to be exact) is enacted through the blended images of sunsets/anthill/people/heart. It’s something that moves beyond metaphor into an almost physical reaction while reading.

What fascinated my as I translated was the way the “mirror” theme of this specific suite leads up nicely to this ending. Through a series of questions with no answers, García Lorca develops a lyric uncertainty, only to push it further as the poem develops: …are you you / or am I me? the speaker asks, only to follow it up with a question regarding hands. It is to this physical point that the poem has led us: questions about the heart and thoughts and even stars have spiraled down to more intimate, physical terrain. With this set up, the poem tips into its final imagery as if tipped over by hand.

Stumpwork_mirror_frame_c._1630s

Confusion (from Suite of the Mirrors) – Federico García Lorca
translated by José Angel Araguz

My heart –
is it your heart?
And who reflects my thoughts?
Who lends me
this passion
without roots?
Why does my suit of colors
keep changing?
Everything is at a crossroads!
Why do you see in the sky
so many stars?
Brother, are you you
or am I me?
And these cold hands,
are they from that one?
I see myself through the sunsets,
and an anthill of people
marches through my heart.

*

Confusión (from Suite de los Espejos) – Federico García Lorca

Mi corazón
¿es tu corazón?
¿Quién me refleja pensamientos?
¿Quién me presta
esta pasión
sin raíces?
¿Por qué cambia mi traje
de colores?
¡Todo es encrucijada!
¿Por qué ves en el cielo
tanta estrella?
¿Hermano, eres tú
o soy yo?
¿Y estas manos tan frías
son de aquél?
Me veo por los ocasos,
y un hormiguero de gente
anda por mi corazón.

*

Happy espejando!

José