feature + interview up at Crab Creek Review blog!

Happy to share a poetry feature and mini-interview that went live earlier this week up at the Crab Creek Review blog!

Screenshot_2017-05-01-14-54-28-2This feature comes as part of their “From Their Archive” series. It’s a generous and encouraging feature to see in the writing community. The post includes my poems “Alien” and “Desgraciado” as well as a short interview where I talk about things that are inspiring me lately and give some advice on the writing life.

“Alien” is included in my second full length poetry collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press). This poem is a good keystone of sorts for that project as it has some of the major themes explored throughout that book.

I’m sharing “Alien” below but highly encourage y’all to check out the full post.

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José Angel Araguz

Alien

When I heard this word first thrown around
in conversation, my family’s Spanish
cracked to let in this strange stretch
of cautious whisper, the weather changed
in my mind. I’d read of spaceships,
of planets so advanced you could
travel freely, no stopping to be
asked about citizenship, no stone
face behind a badge peering
to where I sat in the backseat.
The world became another place.
The word wetback began to bring
to mind the scene where the dark creature
burst from a woman’s stomach
in a movie. The sky grew overcast
in my mother’s eyes, kept her inside,
when someone talked of borders.
Rosaries turned secret communicators.
Prayers: reports of worry and want.
Each crucifix, a satellite.
Before, I would stand outside and look
at what I felt to be not empty space
but an open window to another life.
Now, another life invaded.
There were people with papers,
and there were people without.
There were questions I was told
the answers to should they come up.
There were stories I was asked
to forget. When my mother pressed
the silver face of St. Jude
into my palm, I felt the weight of it,
the cold and unfamiliar
​feel of what I didn’t know.

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Check out another poem and my mini-interview at the Crab Creek Review blog!

new essay published: excerpt

Far-Villages_Final_CMYK-768x1187This week I’m proud to share an excerpt from my essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems” which was recently included in the anthology Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets edited by Abayomi Animashaun and published by Black Lawrence Press.

This essay engages with the concept of disidentification as established by José Esteban Muñoz in his book Disidentifications: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and uses it as a fulcrum into a meditation on my own struggles at the intersection of identity and creative life. As a writer of color, my experience has been that politics found me first; that is, that I don’t have the privilege to decide to “not get political” as it’s said. As evident from early memories of being a child and getting glared at, along with my family, while at the grocery store, I was politicized long before I knew the words that defined me in the eyes of society.

Later, I sat in political science classes and learned ideas like “living below the poverty line” and “marginalization,” words that struck me with shame as well as insight, and was left unable to theorize about such things as they were words that described who I was, where I came from. Learning, in so many ways, has been a process of piecing myself together in the face of such formative disruptions of self. The learning that I engage with in creating poetry and lyric essays is a similar piecing together.

My essay is broken up into a first half, which meditates in prose about these and similar ideas. The second half goes through a series of poems from my first two collections and engages with a dialogue after each exploring what’s in the poem and what’s left out. I offer below the closing poem and prose section. The poem “A Poco” is new and is not in any of my books. Yet, the conversation on and off the page that I experience with it grapples with the same urgent self-interrogation as the rest of the essay. I share it here now as a way to celebrate this new anthology, but also to say thank you to those of you–past, present, and future–who come here and read this blog. 

Special thanks to Abayomi Animashaun for including this essay in this landmark anthology and to Black Lawrence Press for providing a home for this communal converation! A special thanks and shout-out to poets Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Christina Olivares, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, and Lupe Mendez with whom I participated in the panel Beyond the Blueprint: a poetry reading and panel discussion on the reconstructed self at the 2017 Thinking Its Presence conference: The Ephemeral Archive hosted at the University of Arizona. It was there that I first read a draft of this essay.

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(excerpt from essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems”)

José Angel Araguz

A Poco

for Ramon

This piece of paper is work? A poco?
I won’t believe that, ni un poco.

It’s work for me with this good eye,
one bad eye from broke glass, pero a poco

tu with two don’t struggle here?
And with books and school? A poco

you all talk about it, in class, I mean,
about what it means? That’s work. A poco,

I’m not here, you don’t write about me,
right? My bad eye? I bet you do. A poco,

no? You have nothing else? You have nothing else.
Don’t say it looks like a bruise gone white. A poco,

no? But don’t say it. Say it’s a marble, or
like my granddaughter says: A poco,

 you can’t see out of that fish eye, abuelo?
Can you see me? Nope. Ni un poco.

What’s in the poem: How my fascination with ghazals and my fascination with South Texas Spanglish work together. How my co-worker Ramon had a clouded eye.

What’s left out: How Ramon’s clouded eye wasn’t glass because taking it out would have caused more overall damage. How Ramon’s thumbs were permanently purple from hammering and missing and hitting his hand. How when we worked side by side at Billy Pugh co. making equipment for oil rigs I felt both honored and intimidated. How the more I wrote into this poem the more I left Ramon’s voice behind. How the biggest breakthrough in writing the poem was having this meta-Ramon ask the question “You have nothing else?” then declare flat out “You have nothing else.” How this meta-Ramon is really me still guilty years later worried I don’t do enough on the page or in my life to honor the people who have helped me survive. How this species of interrogation is never done with, because it is how I honor those who have helped me survive.

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Happy disidentifying!

José