* birthday conversation with james wright

Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused
Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me – James Wright

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.


Since my birthday falls exactly on a Friday this year, I decided to do some extra sharing for this week’s post. First, I will not only present a poem but also present one of my own that is in conversation with it.

First, we have James Wright’s poem above, a short lyric I admire for the way it brings several worlds. The title sets up a casual, almost glib tone, and its directness is interesting to sit with before and after reading the poem. Before reading, the title suggests not simply critique but also a desire to start again via an “unused” pasture. After reading the poem, the title takes on a more literal arc: from the “depressed” start, to the “invitation,” one can see in the title the whole range of emotion traveled in the poem.

While the title is all about directness, the actual poem moves languidly through its details, presenting a counterargument in its indirectness. While the insects are invited in the title, the speaker’s narrative is all about growing closer to the insects, observing their actions through sight and hearing. I say the poem moves languidly, but that is not to say that it is without clarity; in fact, a languid clarity is what is achieved in the pace and directness of the lyric. How else to witness grasshoppers “leap heavily?”

In my own poem in conversation with Wright’s, I found myself pushing against the self in the same spirit of indirectness. Probably telling of my personality that I tend to disappear in poems.


after James Wright – José Angel Araguz

Here the poet left
a book of bad poetry
out in an unused pasture.
The grass and dust in his words
carry small white petals
with them into silence.
What I do with the bad

book I’ve become
leaves me behind a stone
that, could it speak,
would speak in pages
about oceans
and about the self
farthered and forgotten.


The other bit of sharing I’d like to do is regarding a monopoem series I’m starting. The inspiration for this came from a workshop with Juan Felipe Herrera at this year’s CantoMundo. Among other insights and ideas, one of the things Herrera had us do is take a sheet of paper, fold it in half, and design makeshift literary journal which he called a monopoem. Before leaving the conference, a group of us decided to create monopoems for each other. Here’s the first issue of my own monopoem series, Mosca Dragón:

* mesquite front *
* mosca dragón back *

I’m sharing only what the front and back cover look like as the poem inside (“Mesquite”) didn’t photograph all that well. I had a lot of fun creating this monopoem and plan to continue with other issues. They’re fun artifacts to share at readings. I have already shared some of these with my Canto fam via post as well as with the winners from the giveaway earlier this month.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the monopoem, feel free to contact me: thefridayinfluence@gmail.com

Happy dragóning!


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