* reading from The Divorce Suite!

September ended up being such a busy month that I never got around to sharing more excerpts from The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). Luckily, a recent outing to the Spring Grove Cemetery provided a nice background and inspiration for a reading. Below are the poems “Gift” and “The Accordion Heart” along with a clip of my reading them.

I chose these two poems because they are both what I term “makeshift sonnets.” There was a year (2006, I believe) when I wrote a sonnet a day; terribly rhymed creatures they were, all sorts of misguided phrasing. I then took a break from writing in the form for a few years, returning to the form after learning about William Carlos Williams and his idea of the sonnet as simply the shape of an argument.

With that framework to brace me, I wrote my way back into the fourteen line form, feeling out an argument or sense of argument. Both of these poems work out their own sense of argument, and strike their separate notes that compliment the overall project of The Divorce Suite.

*

Gift – José Angel Araguz

A man with a heavy German accent
handed me a book by Brigitte Reimann,
said he had bought it but had to leave
suddenly, and wanted to gift it
to the store. He walked off then.
Gift it, I kept repeating, telling
the story to anyone who’d listen.
Do you know how great that is?

The front photo was the color of smoke,
the author, young, and holding a cigarette.
It looked as if by standing there,
she colored everything around her.
When I looked it up, I found the title
translated to: Everything tastes like farewell.

*

The Accordion Heart – José Angel Araguz (*)

The accordion heart is hard to carry.
There are no hands for it. To play,
you go from face to face and wait
to see who wakes it up. You’ll feel
the air inside you pull and stretch.
You’ll feel awkward and loud, and yet
each movement could be music. You
can see where this could lead to something.

Sometimes the face won’t want to play.
Sometimes the face will play too long.
Either way, you’ll feel worn out.
You’ll want to punch and tear a hole,
and prove the accordion heart is useless.
There are no hands for it. You wait.

*

The Divorce Suite can be purchased from Red Bird Chapbooks.

Happy accordioning!

José

(*) “The Accordion Heart” was originally published in Foothill: a journal of poetry.

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* two poems at The Boiler Journal!

fall16_boiler1Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of The Boiler Journal which features two poems from a manuscript-in-progress. Read them here.

“Forging” and “The Broken Escalator at the Train Platform” both come from my years living in New Jersey/New York when I would commute to work and grad school.

This issue also features work by fellow UC poet Emily Rose Cole as well as stellar work by Leslie Marie Aguilar and Monica Lewis among others.

Check out the rest of the issue here.

Special thanks to Sebastian Hasani Paramo & everyone at the journal for including my work in such a solid issue!

See you Friday!

José

* autumning with jane hirshfield

Oyes en medio del otoño
detonaciones amarillas?

(In the middle of autumn
do you hear yellow explosions?)

— Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions

*
yellow-leaves

Neruda’s lines above evoke a pleasing moment of synesthesia, blurring the sight of yellow leaves with the sound of explosions. As the season changes, I can’t help but see such blurred moments more and more in life.

This week’s poem, “The Heat of Autumn” by Jane Hirshfield, works its materials on a similar level as Neruda’s question above. Housed under the concept of “heat,” the narrative of the poem draws its details together in a way that imbues meaning, connecting things in an active way.

The third line, for example, refers to the “apples” of one season becoming the “cider” of another. In doing so,  the first of the poem’s many little dramas is enacted. By the end, enough details and imbued meanings have piled upon each other (like leaves), that the “heat” of the title becomes a sensation on both a physical and emotional level.

*

The Heat of Autumn – Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

(from Hirshfield’s collection After, 2006)

*

Happy autumning!

José

* new post @ North American Review blog!

Just a quick note to share a post I did for the North American Review blog.

The post, “Happiness and the Tough Stuff,” has me sharing some background about my poem “Stitched” which was published in the Summer 2016 issue of NAR (I have provided the poem below for reference).

“Stitched” will be in my second full length poetry collection, Small Fires, forthcoming in 2017 from FutureCycle Press. It’s a good example of the measure and subject matter of the collection.

Special thanks to Matt Manley who provided the awesome artwork that accompanies my blog post! Thanks also to everyone at the North American Review for this opportunity! Copies of the issue can be bought at NAR’s site.

*

Stitched – José Angel Araguz

Shopping after the accident,
my aunt said: See anything
you like and we can take it,
just have you mother open
her stomach there, then pointed
as my mother laughed,
and I recalled the black
smile stitched into
her side, the lines to me
not healing her, holding
her shut instead, like the door
of the hospital room
I was kept out of when
she wasn’t awake – the accident
from the other night,
how her boyfriend insisted
that he wasn’t drunk
and drove her car into
a tree, how she had felt
safe with him before,
how she really needed that,
looked to each man in her life
for the father she’d lost faith in,
for the man her father failed
to be so early on she
was a child when she left,
how her boyfriend now wouldn’t
visit, had come out of the wreck
unharmed while she kept falling
out of herself – all of this needing
to be held in, sewn up
so she would not hurt,
and me then not wanting
to want anything,
so she would not hurt.

*

See you Friday!

José

* new review at The Volta Blog!

this-visit-295Just a quick note to share the publication of my review of This Visit by Susan Lewis. Check it out at The Volta Blog!

Here’s a link to “Dear Dear” (published at Ink Node) a poem from the second section of This Visit.

To find out more about Susan’s work, check out the poet’s site.

Happy Dear-ing!

José

 

* “the pure / holy of instinct”: elizabeth acevedo

acevedoI agree with those who hold that one of poetry’s major ambitions should be to refresh the language. Through engagement and interrogation of words shared in common, poems can bring us closer to meaning what we mean. An example of the kind of interrogation I mean is evident in this week’s poem from fellow CantoMundo poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s new chapbook, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books).

In the poem below, Acevedo turns a “shitty pick-up line” on its head. The poem’s engagement with the phrase “the body is a temple” quickly turns a confrontation with a stranger into a meditation on language. This move opens up a rich territory of lyric meaning; in subverting the phrase, the speaker is able to both contradict its “pick-up line” intention while also raising the words to a higher meaning. By the end of the poem, the space of tired language and cliche is reclaimed by the speaker as a personal respite for “the pure / holy of instinct.”

*

Stranger Tells Me My Body Be a Temple – Elizabeth Acevedo

and so I show him where
I have stuck my fingernails
beneath this chipping paint

spat on the stained glass
used crooked backbone as scaffolding
knowing it won’t hold up a broken ceiling.

I tell him, I’ve glugged down
          the church wine and given sermon.
                    Men flock but they never seem to come

 for their spirits. If it were up to me
          I’d burn this altar nightly
                    and dance alone in the rubble

pray that shitty pick-up line elsewhere.
Because if anything this body is the pure
holy of instinct

like closing your eyes
and guiding an earring
into long ago pierced flesh.

*

Happy beasting!

José

P.S. If you’re in the Cincinnati area next week, make sure to check out Elizabeth Acevedo’s performance at Xavier University:

Time: 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Location: Xavier University, Gallagher Student Center

To find out more about Elizabeth’s work and upcoming performances, check out her site.

 

* new CR blog microreview & interview!

amolotkov1Just a quick post to announce that my latest microreview & interview for the Cincinnati Review blog is up!

This time around, I do a close reading of moments from A. Molotkov’s upcoming collection, The Catalog of Broken Things (Airlie Press).

A. Molotkov edits The Inflectionist Review along with John Sibley Williams.

Find out more about A. Molotkov’s work at his website.

See you Friday!

José