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Just a quick post to share my new interview series for the Cincinnati Review blog focused on #poetsofinstagram!

The interviews in this series will range from poets who work with erasure/blackout poetry and found poems, to poets who combine their own artwork with their text. These interviews will focus on the writing itself as well as the sense of community to be found among poets on social media.

Check out the first interview with @nomadic_words and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

See you Friday!

José

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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

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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
*
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
*
un-powdered in the apartment to
deal out the day
             & the puzzles
another law then   another
Mexican
          Indian
                      spirit exile
*
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!
*
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.

*

Happy arte-ing!

José

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

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