* hoping with kay ryan

Crown – Kay Ryan

Too much rain
loosens trees.
In the hills giant oaks
fall upon their knees.
You can touch parts
you have no right to—
places only birds
should fly to.

* flight *
* flight *

As August comes to an end, I begin to reflect on the end of summer – or, rather, the ending of summer. Perhaps it takes being born in the summer to be sensitive to the days beginning to grow shorter, even by minutes. Or maybe that’s just a kind of idealistic hope of my own. My world’s been pretty rich this summer, good and bad. Through it all, I am happy to report hope keeps winning out, idealistic or otherwise.

Kay Ryan’s work has always struck me as full of a similar kind of hope. A kind of stubborn and willful hope played out in phrasing and what she terms “recombinant rhyme.” The poem above models this willfulness with grace; the poem below has a tone steeped in struggle. Enjoy!

A Certain Kind of Eden – Kay Ryan

It seems like you could, but
you can’t go back and pull
the roots and runners and replant.
It’s all too deep for that.
You’ve overprized intention,
have mistaken any bent you’re given
for control. You thought you chose
the bean and chose the soil.
You even thought you abandoned
one or two gardens. But those things
keep growing where we put them—
if we put them at all.
A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall.
Even the one vine that tendrils out alone
in time turns on its own impulse,
twisting back down its upward course
a strong and then a stronger rope,
the greenest saddest strongest
kind of hope.


Happy kinding!


* a colorful lyrical alignment

This week’s post features a lyrical alignment of an excerpt from Victoria Finlay’s book Color: A Natural History of the Palette. This is the kind of nonfiction book that tries to break down information through story and personal recollections. Finlay writes of her travels to the places where particular colors are made and goes into the details of their physical and historical make-up.

I read this book back in 2012 and still find myself citing several of its jewels of knowledge with people. One particular moment in the book lends itself to being read on its own like a poem. In the excerpt (lyrically aligned below), Finlay recounts one scientist’s metaphorical explanation of the color of the sky. Enjoy!

The Color of the Sky

a lyrical alignment 

“…to explain the color of the sky, [John Tyndall, nineteenth century British scientist] would use an image of the sea.” (from Color – Victoria Finlay)

Think of the ocean, he would say,
and think of the waves
crashing against the land.

If they came across
a huge cliff
then all the waves would stop;

if they met a rock
then only the smaller waves
would be affected;

while a pebble
would change the course
of only the tiniest waves

washing against the beach.
This is what happens
with light from the sun.

Going through the atmosphere
the biggest wave lengths –
the red ones –

are usually unaffected,
and it is only the smallest ones –
the blue and violet ones –

which are scattered by the tiny
pebble-like molecules
in the sky,

giving the human eye
the sensation of blue.
Tyndall thought

it was particles of dust
which did it;
Einstein later proved

that even molecules
of oxygen and hydrogen
are big enough to scatter

the blue rays
and leave the rest alone.


Happy scattering!


* Francisco X. Alarcón: poem & review

* canto hondo *
* canto hondo *

Happy to share my latest review for the Volta Blog: a meditation on Francisco X. Alarcón’s latest collection, Canto Hondo. In my review, I discuss Alarcón’s engagement with Federico García Lorca’s ideas on cante jondo (deep song). Alarcón delves into García Lorca’s homage to his Andalusian influences to create his own deep song tempered by his own distinct poetic line, a line I describe as being “as alive and intimate as a nerve or a gasp.”

The review may be read here.

To get a sense of what I mean by the above, I’ve chosen this week’s poem from Alarcón’s From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche (University of Arizona Press). Following the poet’s line breaks, I like how the reader is invited into the thought and experience of each stanza. I’m also moved by the choice of moving from a four-line stanza to a three-line stanza, right at the line “…you’re home’s/nowhere -.” This change in form mirrors a change in the drama and tone of the poem; the stanzas that follow put forth their own hope and response to the dilemma of “those who have lost everything.”


To Those Who Have Lost Everything – Francisco X. Alarcón

in despair
many deserts
full of hope

their empty
fists of sorrow

a bitter night
of shovels
and nails

“you’re nothing
you’re shit
your home’s

will speak
for you

will flesh
your bones

green again
among ashes
after a long fire

started in
a fantasy island
some time ago

into aliens


Happy amonging!


* new work up at the Olduvain Review!

Just a quick post to announce that my poems “Another Sound” and “Of Longing” have been published in The Olduvain Review. Check them out here.

“Of Longing” comes from a conversation I had with C.K. Williams about neither of us playing guitar enough. Perhaps that’ll be the plan for this afternoon 🙂

See you Friday!


* tanka contest news!

Just a quick post to announce having placed 2nd in the 2015 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest. Here is my placing tanka:

table to table
the smile
of the waitress
never stops
working its wings

José Angel Araguz
Cincinnati, Ohio

Check out the rest of the results here.

Thank you to judges Carole MacRury and Laura Maffei! Thank you also to Janet Lynn Davis who surprised me with the news via phone last week!

The Tanka Society of America will be posting judges’ comments at a later time. I’ll make sure to keep you folks posted.

See you Friday!


* souling with charles wright

August always has me revisiting Charles Wright’s work as well as the work of other August babies like me.

This week’s poem is from his book Sestets in which he does marvels six lines at a time. Here, he takes us from a sunset sky to an implication of the soul as a canary and the body as “underground.” All the while, the lyric is suspended in an intimate, almost conspiratorial tone.

* soulful *
* soulful *

Yellow Wings – Charles Wright

When the sun goes down – and you happen to notice it –

And the sky is clear, there’s always a whitish light

edging the earth’s offerings.

This is the lost, impermanent light

The soul is pulled towards, and longs for, deep in its cave,

Little canary.

This is the light its wings dissolve in

if it ever gets out from underground.


Happy getting!


p.s. In coming up with the title of this week’s post, I came across an actual practice referred to as “souling,” a medieval belief “that for every piece of bread given to the poor a soul could be redeemed from the fire of Hell.” Read more from the site that schooled me here.

* new work up at right hand pointing!

* concentration *
* concentration *

Just a quick post to announce the release of Right Hand Pointing’s Issue #89: “Echo” featuring poems under 25 words. Along with fine work by Sina Evans, Robert Gregory, and Jordi Alonso among others, three of my own pieces are featured:

“Anthology” here.

“Concentration” here.

& “Complicated” here.

The image above is related to the subject of the poem “Concentration.” I’m happy to have this particular poem published as it takes me back to my school days in South Texas watching the local Ballet Folklorico do their thing.

See you Friday!