community feature: Airlie Press book launch!

This particular community feature post is focused on the upcoming book launch of three of Airlie Press’s new titles: Ordinary Gravity by Gary Lark, Savagery by J.C. Mehta, and, winner of the 2018 Airlie Prize, Wonder Tissue by Hannah Larrabee!

Here’s the info for those of you in the Portland, OR area:

When: Tuesday, October 1st @ 7pm
Where: Annie Bloom’s Books, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219

I’m presently in my second year of a three-year stint as a co-editor of Airlie Press and can honestly say that it is a joy to be able to play a part in bringing these books out into the world. Below are excerpts from the new books either to give a taste of the upcoming book launch or to hold space for those of us, like myself, who aren’t able to be there.

Excerpt from Ordinary Gravity by Gary Lark

Much Improved 

Hardly anyone dies of typhoid fever
any more. We can send our sons to war
without complaint. Lice are quickly dispatched
and no one freezes to death.
We have piles of antibiotics.
The broadsword wounded aren’t left
in the field to die with others rotting around them.
Of course there are more bombs and bullets
but morphine is readily available.
We can usually save a soldier whose limb
is blown off.
Yes, things are much improved.
We can send more daughters up to the front.
They have the right.
Soldiering is still a good option for the poor.
We’re working on pills for madness,
more medications to calm the nerves
and we’ll get a handle on this suicide business,
yes we will.

*

Excerpt from Savagery by J.C. Mehta

The Heart Consumes Itself 

It’s not true the starved
don’t eat, we die

of broken hips, pelvis
churned to dust—slowly,

the heart consumes
itself. Atrophies and implodes.

(These chambers, remember,
are a muscle.)

Nobody nowhere shoulders
the strength to stop it all, the whole
fat world from slipping
between cracked, wanting lips. We eat

and we hate,

with each bite and gag-
me spoon. Our weakness
displayed like limbs
splayed wide, flushed
shameful folds of pink.
How I wish

I could stop. Let the valves
shut down cold. Listen,
that last organ coda. And you
in dutiful ovation.

*

Excerpt from Wonder Tissue by Hannah Larrabee

Extraterrestrial

Loose-leaf planet I survive
steeping in a pocket of dust
or lakeside listening to loons,
my tongue curling around
their songs of sorrow, fierce
red eyes, fierce as her body,
its way of going about me—oh,
abandoned bed like a reliquary,
her bone fingers a memory
inside me—oh, I have learned
the language of the homesick
 on
this planet of horses, this planet
of her legs tightening around me,
force rising against gravity, magma
loosened as from a spur kicked
into earth, foaming at the bit, I am
tamed, I am tamed, come tame me
extraterrestrial, I, too, have learned
the word beautiful, mapped its quiet
coordinates, the wind through her dress
is the conversation of cells, I am alive
in all my fires.

*

Click on the following to learn more about Airlie’s publishing collective model, our present single poem prize, our national Airlie Prize, and the regional open reading period from which editorships are determined.

And be sure to check out my own new Airlie title, An Empty Pot’s Darkness.

community feature: Artists Undeterred – Art Exhibit

This week, I’d like to introduce a new type of feature on the Influence: community features. In these features, I’ll be promoting events put on by marginalized literary communities and spotlighting their efforts. If you have a community you feel should be highlighted, feel free to message me about it either on Twitter (@JoseAraguz) or email  (thefridayinfluence@gmail.com)

ArtistsUndeterredPrideFinalFlyer

For this first community feature, I’m bringing attention to “Artists Undeterred” an art exhibit which opens at the Pride Center of Staten Island on August 11th at 7pm. The opening will feature artist commentary by LeVar “Var” Lawrence and a performance by Open Doors Reality Poets, of which Lawrence is a core member. To find out more about the event and explore links to the featured artists, go here.

This event came to my attention via Ani Schreiber, an artist whose work is part of the exhibit. I have had the honor of having Schreiber’s artwork feature on four of my chapbooks and all three of my full length poetry collections. Her work is marked by a rich directness steeped in realism, imagination, and vision.

For those who might not know, Schreiber is also my partner. We have been together for eight years, married for four of those. Over the years that we’ve been a part of each other’s lives, I have watched Schreiber come to terms not only with her disability but also with herself as an artist. Now, it is a problematic trope to discuss a disabled artist in terms of “bravery” or “admiration,” mostly because it fetishizes and condescends to people who are simply being people. So when I say that I have a great admiration for Schreiber and her work, it comes from a place of artist to artist and is informed by our personal history.

I have been there when she’s had to stop working on a project due to physical limitations and seen the frustration of those moments. I have also seen her suss out new mediums to continue at her work. Watching her do this navigating of the intersection where artistry and disability meet has resonated with me. There are lessons in perseverance that come with an artist’s life that don’t fit into instructional guides, and that drive home that you never know what a person’s been through to get to the creative act.

In the clip below which serves as an introduction to the Open Doors Reality Poets, Ramon “Tito” Cruz reads the following lines:

Soledad es una cosa que no se puede hablar
La soledad es una cosa que to puede matar

(Loneliness is a thing of which you cannot speak)
(Loneliness is a thing that can kill you)

These lines point to the loneliness of hardship which the creative act acknowledges. Events like the “Artists Undeterred” exhibit create spaces where the art resulting from this acknowledgment is celebrated and seen.

To find out more about Open Doors, go here.