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Archive for January, 2017

osowskiHappy to share my latest post for the Cincinnati Review blog, a microreview & interview of Leah Poole Osowski’s Hover Over Her!

In this microreview, I discuss Osowski’s work via “the poetics of suddenness.”

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Also, I wanted to share a new Instagram poetry project I’ve started entitled poetryamano (poetry by hand). This account will focus on sharing poems written by hand.

I’m excited to see what new directions this takes my writing and what it opens up in terms of form. The latest posts will appear here on the sidebar of this site, but the full account can be accessed here.

Be sure to check out my other account as well – which is more in line with the spirit of this blog and my life. Both accounts are without a doubt centered around poemtrees 🙂

I hope you and yours are well during these trying times.

See you Friday!

José

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Some good news: I am happy to report that last Friday, 1/20, I successfully defended my dissertation! This event marks the culmination of four years of effort, doubt, more effort, and study.

After I defended my dissertation, I found myself amidst a crowd protesting the inauguration, which was encouraging, until I saw at the top of the stairs one white student with a BUILD THE WALL poster, and another white student standing there angrily shouting out Trump’s MAGA slogan. I’d had a Skype interview at 9am, then the defense at 10:30am. I was stressed and disoriented, and made my way home in a daze.

The jarring/threatening-vibe continues this week with the executive orders put into place by the new president. There’s also an armed activist (non-student) on campus carrying four guns talking about the second amendment and asking students if he scares them. He’s been here since inauguration day.

What does this have to do with poetry? I share these stories to document what makes up the crucible in which my poems are presently being written in and my life is being led. I look forward to continuing making use of this knowledge and experience (of the PhD, of living in Ohio in 2017) in the service of others. People are made up of a complexity that cannot be simplified or diminished by slogans. Reading and writing poetry, teaching it in the classroom, all of it helps us to read in between the lines.

This week’s poem reflects the work of being “in-between.” The lyric is able to carry various stories via language that moves and challenges the reader to do some of the “walking working” themselves. The poem is at times song and narrative, but always human. By “walking working,” we make meaning out of words; by “walking working,” we persist, resist, and evolve beyond the narratives others would have us live by.

cedarwaxwingeatingberries09

Everyday We Get More Illegal – Juan Felipe Herrera*

Yet the peach tree
still rises
& falls with fruit & without
birds eat it the sparrows fight
our desert
*
            burns with trash & drug
it also breathes & sprouts
vines & maguey
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laws pass laws with scientific walls
detention cells   husband
                           with the son
                        the wife &
the daughter who
married a citizen
they stay behind broken slashed
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un-powdered in the apartment to
deal out the day
             & the puzzles
another law then   another
Mexican
          Indian
                      spirit exile
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migration                     sky
the grass is mowed then blown
by a machine  sidewalks are empty
clean & the Red Shouldered Hawk
peers
down  — from
an abandoned wooden dome
                       an empty field
*
it is all in-between the light
every day this     changes a little
*
yesterday homeless &
w/o papers                  Alberto
left for Denver a Greyhound bus he said
where they don’t check you
*
walking working
under the silver darkness
            walking   working
with our mind
our life
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Happy life-ing!
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José
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* Poem published at Poets.org. Here’s a link to a reading of it by Herrera himself.

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Scars – William Stafford

They tell how it was, and how time
came along, and how it happened
again and again. They tell
the slant life takes when it turns
and slashes your face as a friend.

Any wound is real. In church
a woman lets the sun find
her cheek, and we see the lesson:
there are years in that book; there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.

Rows of children lift their faces of promise,
places where the scars will be.

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Reaching out to William Stafford’s work today in light of the inauguration. Fear still finds its way into conversations between me and Ani. I find myself thinking back on other elections, other times when the “slant” life took unsettled me. Whatever happens, I am grateful again for my readers – of the blog, of the work, of poetry in general. Through these words of ours we learn from each other.

Frozen_River.jpgThe poem above floors me by the subtle way it develops its metaphors, culminating in the image “there are years in that book.” I think of Stafford as one of the great “readers” of the books in scars and moments. Such careful reading breeds careful saying. The poem below is a good example. If read too fast, one might miss what is being said. You might think that the way with all poems. Pues, so it goes. It has taken me years of loving this poem to begin to hear the river elsewhere coursing the river frozen here. Here’s to continuing forward with our saying and listening.

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Ask Me – William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.  Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait.  We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

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Happy saying!

José

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Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Gris-Gris, which includes my poems “The Ladder” and “Clock Affirmations.”

“The Ladder” is dedicated to my friend Christine Maloy whose passing is also commemorated in my second chapbook, Corpus Christi Octaves.

This issue also includes work by Alejandro Escudé, Kristen Jackson, and Stanley Rubin among other stellar work. Read the issue here.

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Also, here’s the link to my latest What’s Poetry Got to Do With It? column published on the Cinncinati Review blog.

This time around I go into a few of the connections that I see between poetry and meditation. Here’s a brief excerpt from the conclusion:

Attention, which in meditation talk is often termed mindfulness or awareness, is invaluable to poetry. By having us pay attention to words, poems open ways for us to pay attention to the world.

Read the rest here.

See you Friday!

José

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This week I’m happy to share a translation of a poem by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro. What moves me about this week’s poem is how closely the logic of the lines play out some of Huidobro’s ideas on poetry. For Huidobro, the poet was a “maker” and creator of “new worlds that never existed before, that only the poet can discover.”*

An example of what this thinking looks like in a poem can be seen in the first two lines: Let the verse be like a key / that opens a thousand doors. Here, the logic and imagery come together with a stunning immediacy. My first reaction in reading these lines was a professional envy; I mean, were they my lines, I might have just stopped at these two lines and called it a poem!

But Huidobro (with better sense than me, obvs) forged ahead, delivering an ars poetica that enacts in poetry what it would have poetry do. Often an ars poetica will be lost in abstraction and an attempt at a grand statement. Here, Huidobro doubles down in grand statements, the effect being a poem that keeps creating its ideas before the reader.

vanishing_venice_-_patrick_hughes

Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

Que el verso sea como una llave
Que abra mil puertas.
Una hoja cae; algo pasa volando;
Cuanto miren los ojos creado sea,
Y el alma del oyente quede temblando.

Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
El adjetivo, cuando no da vida, mata.

Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
El músculo cuelga,
Como recuerdo, en los museos;
Mas no por eso tenemos menos fuerza:
El vigor verdadero
Reside en la cabeza.

Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh Poetas!
Hacedla florecer en el poema ;

Sólo para nosotros
Viven todas las cosas bajo el Sol.

El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.

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Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

translated by José Angel Araguz

Let the verse be like a key
that opens a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something passes in flight;
whatever the eyes see, let it be created,
and the soul of the listener be shaken.

Invent new worlds and take care of your word;
the adjective, failing to give life, kills.

We are in the age of nerves.
The muscle hangs,
like a memory, in the museums;
but that is not why we have less strength:
true vigor
resides in the mind.

Why do you sing the rose, oh Poets!
make it flower in a poem;

just for us
all things live under the sun.

The poet is a little God.

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Happy arte-ing!

José

*These quotes are from the introduction to The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro (New Directions).

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The Purpose of Nuns – Judith Ortiz Cofer

As a young girl attending Sunday mass,
I’d watch them float down the nave
in their medieval somberness, the calm
of salvation on the pink oval of their faces
framed by tight-fitting coifs. They seemed above
the tedious cycle of confession, penance
and absolution they supervised: of weekday dreams
told to a stranger on a Saturday; of Sunday sermons long
as a sickroom visit, and the paranoia of God always
watching you — that made me hide under my blanket
to read forbidden fictions.

Some of us were singled out for our plainness,
our inclination to solitude, or perhaps —
as our mothers hoped in their secret hearts —
our auras of spiritual light only these brides
of quietness could see in us. We were led to retreats,
where our uninitiated footsteps were softened,
and our heartbeats synchronized, becoming one
with the sisters’. In their midst, we sensed freedom
from the worry of flesh — the bodies of nuns
being merely spirit slips under their thick garments.
There was also the appeal of sanctuary in a spotless mansion
permeated with the smells of baked bread, polished wood
and leather-bound volumes of only good words.
And in the evenings, the choral mystery of vespers
in Latin, casting the final spell of community over us.

The purpose of nuns was to remind us
of monochrome peace in a world splashed in violent colors.
And sometimes, exhausted by the pounding demands
of adolescence, I’d let my soul alight
on the possibility of cloistered life, but once the sky
cleared, opening up like a blue highway to anywhere,
I’d resume my flight back to the world.

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This week I am proud to feature the above poem by Puerto Rican American writer, Judith Ortiz Cofer, who recently passed away. Her work in prose and poetry helped to pave the way for a culturally infused and aware literary tradition that continues today.

The above poem works a subtle magic through the speaker’s impression of the nun figure. The stakes of the poem lie not in accurately portraying nuns, but rather in giving a sense of the strict world the speaker lived in growing up (first stanza), and then exploring how the perceived idea of the nun’s life offered relief from that strictness. There is a power to lines like: The purpose of nuns was to remind us / of monochrome peace in a world splashed in violent colors that works via contrast; if the nun is the idealized figure, then the speaker themselves lives in the world of “violent colors.” So much of life is looking for hope wherever we can find it, and sometimes a poem or a community can open up something inside you “like a blue highway to anywhere,” until you find yourself able to move, and dream, forward. Cofer’s work, here and elsewhere, made possible such empowered dreaming to happen for myself and others.

Reading the poem above the first time years ago inspired my own poem, “The Nun’s Lament,” which is included in my chapbook, Reasons (not) to Dance. I remember being stunned into a new revision of what became the poem below after reading Cofer.

bird-sketch

The Nun’s Lament – José Angel Araguz

after Judith Ortiz Cofer

One night, I saw the figure of a man making his way towards my window. I had been looking across the roof of the chapel, stark in white moonlight. I closed my eyes, stood still, how long, I cannot say. The figure of the man, there behind my eyelids, flashed from shadow arms swinging, clambering across the roof, to a shadow flock of birds stirring in the air in unison, all but one taking off away from me. The one shot straight to me, past me, left me heavy, my pulse beating like wings inside. What I heard was not coming closer, was not hurting me, what I heard was restless. I had become a cloister for the heart, a space where the heart waited, idle, mid-flight. When I opened my eyes, there was the roof, clear, and a train in the distance, its whistle bursting.

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Happy dreaming!

José

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Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Right Hand Pointing which includes my poem “Naos Explains Lying.”

* naos to meet you *

* naos to be here *

This poem is another in a new series of poems in the persona of Naos, a character I explored originally in my digital chapbook Naos: an introduction which can be read online.

Special thanks to Guest Editor Brad Rose for selecting my poem and to everyone at Right Hand Pointing for letting Naos hang out for awhile more.

See you Friday!

José

 

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