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Archive for July, 2016

adelphinotes

 

Last week had me both at the Alice Hoffman Young Writers Retreat at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, as well as in Austin, Texas for the CantoMundo conference. It’s a little more rocknroll that I’m used to, but I had a blast!

Here’s a pic of one of the nice surprises from last week: a collection of personal notes from the young writers I worked with at Adelphi. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel at being given the opportunity to share my work and talk poetry with others. Thank you to all who attended my talk on lyrical prose and who have since reached out since then! Keep the words coming, for yourself and for others!

Each year, CantoMundo hosts a poetry workshop for Latina/o poets that provides a space for the creation, documentation, and critical analysis of Latina/o poetry. This year was the conference’s last time in Austin, and it was nothing short of spectacular! I was able to be in workshops led by Texas State Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla one day, and one led by the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Juan Felipe Herrera. Both poets presented themselves as forces of nature as well as generous guides. Highlights included the readings on Friday and Saturday at the Spider House Ballroom. I read on Saturday, specifically “Drinking at Home” and “Directions” from Everything We Think We Hear.

Sunflowers,_Merritt,_California,_27_June_2013One of my favorite things to do at CantoMundo is to geek out about my favorite poems by the poets who wrote them and who happen to attend the conference. The poem below by José Antonio Rodriguez originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Poetry magazine. I remember copying it out by hand at a bookstore and marveling at the raw imagery, from like a thousand ticks turning their backs to the “halos” at the end. What continues to move me even now in reading is how the imagery is packed with so much emotional resonance, pointing to things hidden as well as things almost there.

***

Sunflowers – José Antonio Rodriguez

No pitying/”Ah” for this one – Alan Shapiro

No, nor a fierce hurrah
for what it does without choice,
for following the light
for the same reason the light follows it.

Just a thing rough to the touch, a face
like a thousand ticks turning their backs,
suckling at something you can’t see,
and a body like a tag off the earth

so that my child hands couldn’t tear it out
from the overgrown lot next door.
………………………….My palms raw with the shock
of quills and spines. Its hold like spite, and ugly

except when seen from a distance—
a whole field of them by the highway,
an 80-mile-per-hour view
…………………………..like a camera’s flash.
All of them like halos
without saints to weigh them down.

*

Happy halo-ing!

José

p.s. One week left to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Reasons (not) to Dance! Details below!

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

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This week, I had the opportunity to talk poetry at the Alice Hoffman Young Writers Retreat which is held at Adelphi University. We wrote about the moon a la William Stafford’s qoute, and used that exercise’s focus on performance and attention to talk about various approaches to lyrical prose.

It was a great group who asked me questions ranging from what kind of sandwich I would be and why (the answer: French dip, because it’s a plain sandwich, just bread and meat, but it’s transformed in the eating, the dip into the au jus sauce before taking a bite making it a little funky, as I try to do to mine own plain words and self), to what role does place have in my process. The answer to this latter question is complicated. I mean, when by the mountains in New Mexico, my poems tried to stretch like a range across the horizon; when in NYC, my poems tried to match the heights of skyscrapers. But when it comes to my books, there’s a little bit of everywhere and everything in each. We carry our places with us as much as our stories.

I thought of this as Rob Linne, who was kind enough to invite me to talk at the retreat, introduced me by saying that I was from Corpus Christi, calling the city one of his many hometowns. Something about that phrasing and sentiment continues to feel right to me days later.

Much of the talk revolved around me reading poems from my book Everything We Think We Hear, and then tying in the little lessons each poem gave me as I worked towards a final draft, lessons about lyrical prose as much as life.

One poem from the book I had planned to but didn’t get a chance to read is “Old Love.” This poem’s first draft came from a dream where I heard the final lines in my head and lived out the final image of talking into a baby carriage. I literally stumbled out of bed and those lines down, but it took a few years to really to where the poem wanted to go. While a lesson in waiting, this poem also became a lesson in honesty,  which requires its own waiting sometimes.

Old Love

 

When I dream of an old love, I let it ride, having already broken off what connected us, and not wanting to go through it all again. I drink my coffee the way they would remember me taking it, for some light and sweet, for others black and with a comment on how I can’t believe how long it took me to take it this way, undiluted, untampered, bitter. With a heat on my tongue, I listen to old love, let my mind wander more than I did when I was with them, knowing I have had this conversation, feeling the answers give over as accommodating as leaves to sunlight. With a green on my tongue, I inevitably mix up the conversations: ask after the father of one whose father was never around; whisper an inside joke I realize too late I never shared. When old love looks at me lost, I ask, Where did you get those, and point sometimes to a set of bow and arrow earrings, sometimes a pair of toucans tattooed on the inside of an arm. Stories of boutiques I paced politely. Stories of a childhood fascination with colorful birds. Don’t you remember? When we run out of small talk, I find myself pushing a baby carriage in which old love has fallen in. Helpless, I look down, only to hear myself doing baby talk, shaking my head, waving my hands, emphatically repeating words, and, in general, speaking in such a way I know I cannot ever make myself understood.

*

This weekend is CantoMundo. I’ll be participating in one of two CantoMundo readings in Austin, TX, details below. If you happen to be in town, stop on by – it promises to be a great time! I’ll be part of the group reading on Saturday.

Screenshot_2016-07-21-17-45-54-1

Happy everthinging!

José

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Poet of Cripples – Jim Ferris

Let me be a poet of cripples,
of hollow men and boys groping
to be whole, of girls limping toward
womanhood and women reaching back,
all slipping and falling toward the cavern
we carry within, our hidden void,
a place for each to become full, whole,
room of our own, space to grow in ways
unimaginable to the straight
and the narrow, the small and similar,
the poor, normal ones who do not know
their poverty. Look with care, look deep.
Know that you are a cripple too.
I sing for cripples; I sing for you.

*

beauty is a verbOne of the highlights of teaching composition this summer has been engaging with excerpts from the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. There is a wealth of great poetry in this anthology, which includes the work of Ona Gritz, Hal Sirowitz, and the writer of this week’s poem, Jim Ferris.

What I love about this week’s poem, “Poet of Cripples,” is how Ferris takes a singular experience and sings it in such a way that it becomes personal for the reader. The stakes engaged with via the poem quickly become familiar; the speaker’s intimate address of Look with care, look deep, is in the tradition of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Poetry becomes, for Ferris as it was for Whitman, a way to access our hidden void and push ourselves to what we would become.

This poem’s momentum makes me think of another Whitman-influenced poet, Pablo Neruda, specifically his lines at the end of “Alianza (Sonata)” where so much intangible and conceptual feeling is evoked through language that is felt in the body:

Screenshot_2016-07-14-20-51-34-1

…I feel your lap’s heat and the transit of your kisses
creating fresh swallows in my dreams.

At times the fate of your tears rises
like age up to my forehead, and there
the waves keep breaking, destroyed by death:
its movement is damp, decayed, final.

Both poets meet at the place where language and the body meet to affect each other, like waves making and unmaking the shore.

Happy singing!

José

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

 

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In the summer course I’m teaching, we have been discussing ideas of writing as performance; that is, what gets going as soon as words are on the page. It’s similar to what William Stafford means when he says, “The moon you are describing is the one you are creating,” which I wrote about in a post from this Spring. 

I came across this week’s poem, “The Joy of Writing” by Wislawa Szymborska, and share it here because of the connection it has to these concepts of writing as performance. From the beginning, the poem ties the act of writing to what’s being described, creating a singular conceit of “these written woods.” The metaphor is stretched enjoyably far. What I find most enjoyable of all, at least this week, is the startling nature of the last line: “Revenge of a mortal hand.” In contrast to the title of the poem which sets up low dramatic expectations, Szymborska takes us down to that last line with a sense of mortality and complication that is surprising as well as apt and necessary.

The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides 1824-7 by William Blake 1757-1827

The Joy of Writing – Wislawa Szymborska

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

Happy mortaling!

José

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

 

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* it's all about the abrahams, baby *

Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Cider Press Review which features my poem “Corpus Christi”!

This particular poem was written during a summer over ten years ago where I lived in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas without A/C, which led to many hazy meditations at midnight. That this poem has finally seen the light of day is proof that poems, like roaches, are creatures of survival.

This issue also features stellar work by Samantha Futhey, Gabrielle Campagnano, Lauren Camp, and Geoff Anderson among others. Check out the issue here.

See you Friday!

José

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

 

Read Full Post »

A year ago, I was in the hospital due to some GI issues that brought me close to dying. I have been wondering how I would feel come this makeshift anniversary. Strangely enough, I am in the same mix of life as then.

That said, I do see myself in a different place in the light of the many gifts since then: the gift of my first wedding anniversary; the gift of seeing Everything We Think We Hear printed as well as having The Book of Flight soar into the (e)world; the gift of doing poetry readings in my hometown again; the gift of having my family hear me read poems and share what I love; the gift of new projects and new friends.

This makeshift anniversary has brought up complicated feelings to say the least. And yet, the feelings aren’t exactly unmanageable or strange. When I think of poets able to navigate this terrain of human fatefulness, Lucille Clifton comes readily to mind.

praying-hands-715764_960_720In the poem below, Clifton describes “sorrows” through imagery that evokes a mix of angels and the duende. It’s exactly this mix of the living and the dying that poetry manages to bring to understanding one lyric at a time.

sorrows – Lucille Clifton

who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin

sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking

their bony fingers
they have heard me beseeching

as i whispered into my own
cupped hands enough not me again

but who can distinguish
one human voice

amid such choruses
of desire

*

Happy chorusing!

José

    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

 

Read Full Post »

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