Selena poems!

Selena_Quintanilla_statue_Mirador_de_la_florThis week I thought I would celebrate the publication of another one of my Selena poems in the latest issue of Crab Orchard Review by sharing the first Selena poem I wrote.

The poem “The Things to Fight Against” (below) can be found in my second full length poetry collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press), and was originally published in Switchgrass Review. In this poem, I braid together a bit of my own personal mythology with the late singer’s tragic death, our two narratives meeting across our respective bilingualism and lives in Corpus Christi, Texas. This poem is also an example of me working in syllabics.

Araguz author photo 3
old photo – parallel pose unintentional

My new poem, “Selena: a study of recurrence/worry,” is a pantoum and goes further into the impact of her life and death upon not only my own life but of those I hold dear in my hometown.

Be sure to check out my other poems in COR “St Peter to Joseph” and “Sentence” along with work by other stellar writers in this issue. Special thanks to editors Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble as well as everyone at COR who helped make this new issue possible!

*

The Things to Fight Against – José Angel Araguz

for Selena

Onstage, mouth brimming with the Spanish
parents teased her with, maybe she looked
down and saw the cowboy hats, the boots
and belt buckles, the purses, curls,
and children, maybe she saw herself,

thought: Of all the things to fight against,
sound’s not one of them – sound of applause,
sound of gritos, sound of sparked cuetes,
sound of beer cans gasping open,
sound of busses turning in the dark,

groaning in dreams, sound of R’s rolling,
sound of birdwing flutter, sound of wind
over open water, sound of flags
unfurling, sound of flame flaring
up and out of a struck match, sound of

a voice, my own Spanish unsure, chopped,
shaky, sound of a bullet breaking
through the air, sound of a newspaper
splayed on the wind, the news floating,
punched with the grace of long hair – her hair

now a cold blade of bronze, her statue
along the sea wall, to see her is
to see the tide forever turning,
pulled and pulling away, is to
think again of her killer, crying

in her car in a stand-off, gripping
the gun which would later be broken
to pieces and thrown into the same
waters the statue looks over,
is to hear my aunt again call us

a city of crabs in a bucket,
each of us clambering to get out
has another behind them – their face
similar, a face we’ve grown with
and understand – dragging them back down.

 

Advertisements

disbelief y Concha Méndez

In my fascination with the short lyric, one of the variations I enjoy are poems that work like door hinges into an emotion. These poems walk the fine line of narrative and abstract language, and take on risks in order to create an emotional impression.

This week’s poem – “No es aire lo que respiro…” by Concha Méndez – is a good example of what I mean. In typical short lyric fashion, the poem is carried by a personal tone that evokes intimacy. From there, the voice delves into metaphoric language, developing a narrative of air-turned-ice, ground that opens, and eyes that see an ever-darkening world. The poem ends on lines of sorrow and disbelief.

dawnDespite the bleak turns in a small amount of lines, this poem is one of hope in the way that poetry writing in general implies hope. Here, in ten lines, is the presence and direct statement of one’s feelings. Also, there’s the sense of one reporting from an inner landscape in language whose ambiguity leaves what poet D. M. Garrison calls “dreaming room,” that is, a space for a reader to dwell on what the words bring up for them. In the light of recent events in the news, including climate change reports and the Kavanaugh confirmation, we have been given many reasons to “look at the world” and “not want to believe.”

In my translation, I worked towards having the words do the “hinge” work I spoke of earlier, and downplaying some of the cadence in the original Spanish that doesn’t exactly carry over into English. My goal was to drum up some of the tension and air of dwelling in Méndez’s original. Enjoy!

No es aire lo que respiro… — Concha Méndez

No es aire lo que respiro,
que es hielo que me está helando
la sangre de mis sentidos.
Tierra que piso se me abre.
Cuanto miro se oscurece.
Mis ojos se abren al llanto
ya cuando el día amanece.

Y antes del amanecer,
abiertos miran al mundo
y no lo quieren creer…

*

It’s not air that I breathe … — by Concha Méndez
English translation by José Angel Araguz

It’s not air that I breathe,
that is ice freezing
the blood of my senses.
The ground I tread opens for me.
Wherever I look darkens.
My eyes open, weeping
already when the day dawns.

And before dawn,
they look at the world
and do not want to believe…

music-ing with Ntozake Shange

In a workshop a few years ago, I had the honor of getting to hear distinguished poet Carmen Tafolla talk about voice and its role in poetry. She said that we should consider human voice a chemical component of the poem, that through it, heat and energy were summoned to bring language to life.

This week’s poem, “i live in music” by Ntozake Shange, is a good example of the many ways voice can raise metaphor and imagery into human energy. The lines

sound 
falls round me like rain on other folks 
saxophones wet my face 
cold as winter in st. louis 

bring together sound and metaphor in a compelling way. The use of “sound” and “round,” for example, create a lyric momentum through internal rhyme. This momentum is furthered by the echo of sounds in the rest of the line: “sound” and “round” make use of distinct “s” and “r” sounds which are brought up again in “rain” and “folks.” The effect is phrasing that is engaging and evocative. A similar move occurs in the following two lines, “saxophones,” “wet,” and “face” echoed in “winter” and “st. louis.” One can hear music and rain in these lines.

musicWhat moves the poem into human resonance for me is the way this sound-play is put in the service of the speaker’s voice and their turns of statement and questioning. The lines “i live in music / is this where you live?” start the poem with a narrative step forward followed by a pause. This use of line break and pacing affects the reader in a visceral way; the lines evoke a human voice talking to and asking after the reader. This presence, along with the soundscape of the whole poem, lead to the poem’s ending “hold yrself / hold yrself in a music” in a way that emphasizes the urgency of these lines while living them out.

i live in music – Ntozake Shange

i live in music
is this where you live?
i live here in music
i live on c# street
my friend lives on b-flat avenue
do you live here in music
sound
falls round me like rain on other folks
saxophones wet my face
cold as winter in st. louis
hot like peppers i rub on my lips
thinkin they waz lilies
i got 15 trumpets where other women got hips
& a upright bass for both sides of my heart
i walk round in a piano like somebody
else be walkin on the earth
i live in music
live in it
wash in it
i cd even smell it
wear sound on my fingers
sound falls so fulla music
ya cd make a river where yr arm is &
hold yrself
hold yrself in a music

*

to learn more about Ntozake Shange, check out her site

poetryamano project: april 2017

This week I’m sharing the fourth installment archiving my Instagram poetry project entitled @poetryamano (poetry by hand). This account focuses on sharing poems written by hand, either in longhand or more experimental forms such as erasures/blackout poems and found poems.

Below are highlights from April 2017. This month found me going further with erasures. I was working out of a true crime book, hence some of the more grisly poems, ha.

insta pic 1
I made a PowerPoint. Don’t hate.

I’m especially excited to share these this week as I’ll be presenting a workshop entitled “Reverse Tetris: Erasure Poems in Contemporary Times” as part of the Oregon Poetry Association conference in Eugene, Oregon. I’ll presenting work by @blackoutbiblepoetry, Isobel O’Hare, @kenyjpgarcia, @colette.lh, and @makeblackoutpoetry along with my own work. Participants will get a chance to work on their own erasures as well.

Be sure to check out the previous installments of the archive – and if you’re on Instagram, follow @poetryamano for the full happenings.

Stay tuned next week for more of the usual Influence happenings. For now, enjoy these forays into variations on the short lyric!

 

apr 2017 1

apr 2017 2

apr 2017 3

apr 2017 4

apr 2017 5

apr 2017 6

apr 2017 7

apr 2017 8

apr 2017 9

apr 2017 10

apr 2017 11

*

Happy amano-ing!

José

recap of my recent Linfield College reading!

IMG_20180911_235840_429*

Just a quick note to share this thoughtful recap of my recent poetry reading at Linfield College up at Medium!

I read on September 11th as part of the Readings at the Nick series held at Linfield’s Nicholson Library. Here’s “Alabanza” by Martín Espada, the poem I read to start things off.

Thank you to Ryan O’Dowd for this engaging detailing of the reading!

— José

rad Wallace Stevens

This week’s poem – “The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm” by Wallace Stevens – takes me back to a conversation I had with a co-worker when I worked at a bookstore years ago. I had been arranging the poetry section for National Poetry Month and positioning a Wallace Stevens book to face out from a eye-level shelf. My co-worker happened to pass by and say: Stevens! Cool! I know one poem by him. “The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm.” It’s rad!

I hadn’t read the poem but I was intrigued, as Stevens is often not the easiest person to follow line by line. Not that I didn’t think my co-worker incapable of following a Stevens poem, but rather that a conversation about Stevens, for me, usually brings in difficulty, his use of ambiguity and lyrical obfuscation, and the way you have to work at following what he has to say. At least that’s been my experience. I usually tell folks that I’ve picked up and put down Stevens’ Collected Poems three times in my life, each time getting a little farther into it, before moving on, not defeated just knotted with questions. And yet, getting through more and more poems of his continues to be a rich experience.

bookstore_eugene_oregonWhen I finally read the poem below, it was a double surprise. Not only is it a poem that feels like looking through a beam of light – the clarity of the language and meta-thought is such that I immediately doubted my ability to follow what was being said – but the subject of the poem at the end, the way it honors the reading act, makes it an apt poem to be shared between bookstore employees. I mean, our living was made around reading.

I suppose this post is less about the poem but more about reading acts and reading experiences shared. As this blog began as an effort to share my own reading experiences, it’s nice to come back to those roots as dwell a bit on how they’ve been inspiring me throughout my life. Whether you find the poem below “rad” or not, see what you catch of it. See what you “become” and what becomes of you in the process.

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm – Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

from Collected Poems (Vintage)

new review at The Bind!

Just a quick post to share my latest review for The Bind!

montesIn this review, I share thoughts on Lara Mimosa Montes’s The Somnambulist (Horse Less Press, 2016) via an “eight-ball” form.

Alternating between excerpts from the book and my own critical/meditative prose reflections, this review mimics the pool game of eight-ball in terms of its section and its free range form.

Here’s my explanation:

In [the] spirit of braided open-endedness and intimacy, I have arranged my thoughts on and reactions to The Somnambulist across the following fifteen moments from the text. Consider these thoughts arranged like a game of eight-ball after the break shot where nothing has been pocketed. The pool analogy stems from the narrative of the uncle, whose role as a hustler parallels the role of a poet for the speaker in the book. My aim is to have my thoughts parallel the excerpts in a like manner, with the review being another open table where what matters is not any grand point being made or “pocketed.” Instead, the back-and-forth between reader and text is the focus, the reading experience as a game without scores, whose play and movement are trajectories into poetry.

Check out the full review here.

— José