articulating with millicent borges accardi

accardiThis week’s poem comes from Millicent Borges Accardi’s latest collection Only More So (Salmon Poetry) which I recently reviewed for Queen Mob’s Tea House.

My reading process for book reviews (or most books in general, except for novels) is to read with an index card nearby on which I jot down page numbers and key words that I can come back to for either note-taking or review ideas. This practice came out of trying not to write in the margins of books, which is all I did during my twenties, or so it feels like. Sad to say, other than a lot of underlining and the rare sharp observation, the margins of my books were primarily filled with the word “Wow!” written in various sizes. With the index cards, I’m able to have a cursory map of my reading with which to reflect upon.

I share this bit about my review process because I had a pretty strong in-the-moment/on-the-index-card reaction to its ending. While the poem deals with survival, a recurring theme in Accardi’s powerful collection, the way this specific kind of survival is articulated had for me some strong connotations beyond the poem. My note in the margin read: how poems work. I remember feeling that the way the speaker’s directions on “shaking off” the PSP have a person “curled up” and hiding, waiting for the right moment to head back, mirrors the way a poem can wait inside a person until it (and the poet) are ready for it to be expressed. I’m not sure if this makes sense, or if I can articulate the feeling any better (hence this thought isn’t in the review), but it’s a feeling that will always be a part of my memory of this poem.

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How to Shake off the Políciade Segurança Pública Circa 1970
Millicent Borges Accardi

Walk home
determined, neither
urgent nor pokey.
Make clear cut
turns and hold
your head up high.
Carry an ordinary
briefcase. Dress
in shades of brown,
as if you could fold
up and turn back
into dirt if you
needed to. Do not
stop or pause except
to honor street lights
and stop signs. Stay
in the shadows,
but do not hug them
or stay tight
to the overhangs.
Do no pause
to peer into windows,
or look as if you are
waiting for someone
like Salazar.
Disappear. Disappear.
Disappear, as best you can
into traffic
or the pulse of Lisboa.
Do not hesitate
when the men draw
closer, turn into the nearest
side street, that is dimly lighted.
Find a building
where people are entering
easily. Go up the stairs
as if you have business
there, or as if this is your
own home, which it isn’t.
Do not look back even
cautiously at the PSP,
glance down, step with surety
into the unfamiliar lobby.
Find the stairs. Sit
in the darkness under
until you have
become the earth. Hold
your breath
until the men have gone
by. Tell yourself you are safe
and everything
is fine. Remain curled up
longer than you have to,
longer than you imagine might
be necessary before
you regroup and head back.

*

Happy articulating!

José

breathing with Steven Sanchez

bodyIn my microreview & interview of Steven Sanchez’s To My Body (Glass Poetry Press), I focused primarily on the use of imagery throughout the collection to explore the presence of both the physical and experiential body in a poem. It is more than fitting, then, that this week’s poem, “Human Breath Is Eroding The Sistine Chapel,” takes the body metaphors and further unpacks them in an ekphrastic poem that adds new threads of myth to a familiar image.

The travel of this particular poem is where much of the image work is done. The title starts off by placing the image of Michelangelo’s painting in the reader’s mind. We are, like the speaker, considering the famous image and this fact about human breath and erosion. A few lines in, the poem shifts and imposes over this first image the image of the speaker’s hotel room ceiling, their meditation suddenly taking on a more intimate tone. This intimacy is complicated by the third shift of the poem as the speaker digs into memory. Here, the two imposed images so far in the poem are clouded, literally, by the frost breath of the memory.

These three moves present different takes on human breath: it can erode a painting on a ceiling; it can convey smoke in a hotel room; and it is what words are carried on in speech. In each take, breath leaves the human body to have an effect elsewhere. The nature of these effects is at times unmanageable, yet we continue to look, hoping to see something of ourselves in time.

god2-sistine_chapel

Human Breath Is Eroding The Sistine Chapel – Steven Sanchez

Where else do words tarnish
paint and plaster like smoke

on wallpaper, remnants of strangers
I feel close to? The dark matter

of their lungs and mouths scours
the textured ceiling. I light up and lie

down on the motel bed, becoming
Michelangelo on my back, cigarette

stroking the air. I see the world
like I used to, making cold angels

on the white expanse of my backyard
where I watched winter enter

and leave my body, transforming
words into something invisible,

almost tangible, like Adam’s left
hand that will never reach God.

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To My Body by Steven Sanchez can be purchased from Glass Poetry Press.

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Happy breathing!

José

suddenness via leah poole osowski

osowskiThis week I’m sharing a poem from Leah Poole Osowski’s collection Hover Over Her which I recently discussed in a microreview & interview for the CR blog.

In my review, I discussed the collection in terms of “the poetics of suddenness.” This week’s poem, “Glow Sticks,” embodies what I mean by this phrase in its use of direct commands to indirectly handle a narrative charged with urgency. One of the ways in which this move comes together is the mix of long and short sentences.

The shift in energy, for example, between the sentence: “Crack them like taking a frozen lake in your hand, / as a branch, and applying light pressure”  which occurs over two lines, to the sentence after it, “Enter the dark” is compelling for a number of reasons. For one, it is the move from the comfort of detailed instruction and linguistic duration of the longer sentence to the “dark” of the shorter sentence that is abstract and concise. Also, the switch in diction and length creates a momentum in the speaker’s voice that evokes the suddenness that the addressee is being guided through.

This momentum is builds throughout the poem, culminating in the image of “flashlight beams / spelling your name into space.” I’m moved in these final lines by both the closing side of the indirect narrative of the poem as well as what the image implies beyond the poem. To have a name spelled out in light into space speaks to the fleeting nature of life. One can see a parallel in this image of John Keats’ epitaph, which reads: “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.” Osowski’s collection is full of moments like this one, whose freshness and vividness is articulated through a living pulse.

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Glow Sticks – Leah Poole Osowski

Phenol and chemistry that excites a dye.
Crack them like taking a frozen lake in your hand,
as a branch, and applying light pressure.
Enter the dark. Teach a girl who’s never seen light
held in a tube to throw them toward the ceiling —
see the night split open like fault lines.
Show her to trim her wrist and dance like prisms
in a thunderstorm. Tell her how to keep
them into tomorrow, with tinfoil in the freezer,
and watch her worry. You understand this fear
of losing the light. How many summers did you
break them open over the sands of Cape Cod bay,
shake the chemicals onto the ground to bring
the constellations to your feet? You still taste
the hydrogen peroxide when you kiss strangers.
Still mourn the slow deaths of jarred fireflies,
of sand-covered beach fires, of flashlight beams
spelling your name into space.

*

Happy glowing!

José

saying with william stafford

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.

*

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

* excerpts from a new anthology!

I Collected Dead Things As A Child – Nita Penfold

starting with insects, variegated and delicate,
pinned carefully into the cigar box —
iridescent Tiger beetle, round striped bumble bee,
green stick figure of a praying mantis —
my whispers to them went unanswered.

Then a pheasant wing with my feathers like intricate lace
in the wild thrush colors of earth;
turtle shell green and mosaic-patterned,
raw fleshy part inside rotted away;
small skull I could cradle in my hand,
its bone tarnished with a dark shine.

Each one a message from something large
that beat against my eyelids at dusk
dusting them with mystery.

*

the-absence-front-cover613This week I am sharing excerpts from a new anthology offering variations on the theme of drought entitled The Absence of Something Specified which features a strong range of poets including Emily Rose Cole, Carrie Etter, John Sibley Williams, and Laura Madeline Wiseman among others. The editors have collected poems that range from a direct treatment of the subject of drought to how it plays out as a metaphor in people’s intellectual and physical lives.

The poem above navigates its meanings through both the mind and body. I’m moved by the way each stanza of the poem knocks on imagery and physicality for something beyond. Whether it is “whispers…unanswered” or the “dark shine” of bone, the absence of the anthology’s title is engaged with a near-spiritual directness and fascination. The poem ends with a turn: the speaker senses their interrogation “beat against my eyelids at dusk,” and the analytical world becomes mysterious again via physical means.

I share my own contribution to the anthology below. My poem, “Reading Hunger” (originally published in Gulf Coast), comes from my experience of reading Knut Hamsun’s stark and stoic novel, Hunger.

Special thanks to the editors – Quinton Hallet, Colette Jonopulos, Laura LeHew, and Cheryl Loetscher – for putting together such a fine collection of poems!

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Reading Hunger – José Angel Araguz

after Knut Hamsun

He calls it: the festival of what is not eternal,
then goes on describing
an old man’s eyes
as being made of dry horn,

and you can see it,
the almost animal beauty in each person
when unaware of anyone around.

Each person’s solitude bubbles up
like a spring,

a short-lived light
over rocks.

As the rock dries,
the dark gives
more and more gray.

Soon, you will be like this: rock, no water.

*

Happy bubbling!

José

* new work online & monopoem giveaway!

Just a quick post to announce some recent publications available online & to give a small reminder of my current Monopoem Giveaway:

!) I’m happy to announce that my poems “On Being Called Jorge” and “Freckles” are featured in the current issue of The Indianola Review! This issue features work by Angela Morales, E. Kristin Anderson, & Lena Khalaf Tuffaha among other great writers. Check out the rest of the issue here.

@) I’m also happy to share that Crab Creek Review was kind enough to feature my poem “Alien” on their blog! This poem along with “On Being Called Jorge” are both in my upcoming collection, Small Fires, forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

#) Lastly, I am doing a MONOPOEM GIVEAWAY as a thank you to all of you who read my blog. In order to participate, simply leave a comment below stating your interest in receiving a monopoem. I will keep track of who comments and will pick winners at random. The announcement of winners will be on Wednesday, December 14th! Feel free to comment on this post for a chance to win.

A monopoem is a poem and a drawing on a folded sheet of paper. Essentially one of the most mini of self publications. This is the second I’m doing in this series. Here’s a peek at this season’s cover:

2016-12-08-10-06-12

Be sure to comment  below and enter by Wednesday!

Abrazos,

José

* new poem up Rove!

rovefall2016-logo2-3Just a quick post to announce the publication of the latest issue of Rove, a digital broadside quarterly!

Check out “The Rhetoric of Todo” , from my Nada Poems sequence, rendered as a beautiful digital broadside in this issue.

I am happy to have this poem presented alongside stellar work by Miriam Bird Greenberg, Tyler Brewington, and Katie Hibner. Check out the issue here.

Special thanks to Donika Kelly, Elizabeth Barnett, and Monte Holman at Rove!

See you Friday!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway