writer feature: Olivia Dresher

Jumping back into things with the work of Olivia Dresher whose latest collection of fragments and aphorisms, A Silence of Wordscame out recently from Impassio Press.

I actually had the opportunity to get an early read of A Silence of Words and got to share my thoughts via the following blurb:

dresher“In A Silence of Words, Olivia Dresher continues to explore her fascination and deft facility with fragments and aphorisms. Taken from their first public home of Twitter, Dresher’s fragments find their way into a reader’s inner consciousness with the intimacy of poetry and the depth of philosophy, offering “Awe, not answers.” If, as she tells us elsewhere, “The mind likes being alone, the heart doesn’t,” this collection delivers at turns solitude and companionship. In the same way that the mind and heart live within one body, so do the nuance and complexity of these short works live within one’s reading experience, each one a gift of presence and existence.”

To get a sense of what I mean in these words, I have included two small excerpts below.

What I would add to readers new to Dresher’s work is how dually instructive and illuminating these aphorisms and fragments are. Able to carry a range of emotion, from perceptively distant to openly vulnerable, Dresher’s work evokes a person speaking to one’s self in a way that is also speaking to you, the reader. Together in this unique space, human realities are experienced in real time.

I first experienced the unique sensibility of Dresher’s work when I discovered the anthology she edited, In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing (Impassio Press). In this anthology, Dresher outlines a clear idea of the varied scope of fragmentary writing through representative works and authors. I continue to admire her work for how it has shaped me both on the page and in life.

excerpts from A Silence of Words by Olivia Dresher

533
Insects are arrogant

534
Tears go deeper than a smile.
Imagine if a photographer told you to “Cry!” instead of “Smile” before taking your photograph.

535
Tears are perfect

536
Tidal wave moments…

537
Everything to feel,
nothing to be done.

538
If I could love unhappiness,
I’d always be happy.

*

587
Her mind, a kite her heart liked to fly.

588
What are you reading,
the young man on the bus asked me.
Aphorisms, I said.
What do you do for fun, he asked.
Write aphorisms, I said.

589
Longing to feel his longing…

590
As an infant, what did I love?
I loved music and the sky, even then.

591
Stop spilling your silence all over me,
she said silently.

*

Copies of  A Silence of Words can be purchased here.

To keep up with Olivia Dresher’s work, follow her on Twitter: @OliviaDresher

* celebrating with sei shonagon & yahia lababidi

In celebration of the release of my digital chapbook, The Book of Flight (Essay Press), this week’s Influence will be focused on work that I feel is in spirit with the project.

Hyakuninisshu_062First up is Sei Shonagon, who I wrote about in October. I had reason to return to her lists in The Pillow Book recently, and continue to marvel at the surprise-charged prose:

16. Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster

Sparrows feeding their young. To pass a place where babies are playing. To sleep in a room where some incense has been burnt. To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of raindrops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

The cumulative effect of sensory details is at turns charming and striking. It becomes a matter of where the writer leaves you: When the “wind blows against the shutters” it takes one’s breath as well as the narrative away.

signpostsAnother writer whose work has meant more and more to me in the past few months is Yahia Lababidi. Here’s a sample from his collection, Signposts to Elsewhere: aphorisms & other tailored thoughts:

The personal made universal is art’s truth.

Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.

The irony of the writer is that of a private person in a public profession.

Venom poisons most the people who carry it.

What I see as the “tailoring” of the aphorisms and thoughts in this collection is something akin to a fingerprint. Throughout, Lababidi does a great job of tempering the didactic and distant nature of the aphorism with a bit of down to earth humor and wisdom.

Here’s another sample:

Dreams: what get us through the night, and oftentimes the day.

Tattoo: graffiti on a masterpiece.

Disgust can be constructive as a spark igniting transformation.

It is not lovers who compose poetry, but Love.

This last line especially speaks to me about the nature of what it means to be a writer, that there is a purpose beyond ink on page at practice through us.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out with kind words about The Book of Flight (available for free online)! Thank you also to everyone who has shared their thoughts about Everything We Think We HearIt’s been a big couple of months for me. Thank you for reading, y’all!

Happy tailoring!

José

* new online chapbook released!!!

“In the book of flight, plastic bags are brought in to do the work of clouds.

Dead leaves rest in the margins.

Grass clippings, eyelashes, fingernails: errata in the book of flight.”

(José Angel Araguz from The Book of Flight)

book of flight cover

Happy to announce the release of my latest online chapbook The Book of Flight published by Essay Press! Read it free online or download the chap in PDF here.

The Book of Flight is one of twelve winners in Essay Press’s first Digital Chapbook Contest. For this contest, Essay Press asked 12 recent Essay authors each to select and introduce a manuscript extending and/or challenging the formal possibilities of prose. I am honored to have my manuscript selected and eloquently introduced by the innovative author Misha Pam Dick.

Here is a brief description of the chapbook:

“José Angel Araguz’s The Book of Flight is a chapbook of aphoristic, fragmentary writings in the style of Ramon Gomez de la Serna’s greguerías and Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions. Described by Misha Pam Dick as “a four-part microtreatise-poem. Like aphorisms that don’t preen, or fragments that don’t mourn,” The Book of Flight lives somewhere between the insight of haiku, the personal heat of tanka, and the everyday tone of a poet’s notebook.”

This project is especially meaningful to me as it represents the culmination of many of the ideas and insights I have followed and exercised throughout various notebooks and other projects over the past ten years. “Clock Ode” in Reasons (not) to Dance as well as “Zoot Suit Riot” and “Moth Season” in Everything We Think We Hear are good examples of precursors to the sensibility that is in full force in this project.

Please read and share this free chapbook and stay tuned for the other eleven selections from Essay Press!

Thanks to Andy Fitch, Maria Anderson, and Aimee Harrison for all the hard work in putting together the chapbook. Thanks toAndrea Schreiber for the cover art and Courtney Mandryk for the cover design. And an extra special thanks to Misha Pam Dick for selecting the manuscript and writing the introduction!

See you Friday!

José

* translation 2/3 on the friday influence

(from Greguerias – Ramon Gomez de la Serna) *

Curious about the earth, the sky keeps opening and closing the clouds.

*

The hour differs throughout the stars.  In some it is yesterday, in others today, and in others centuries have passed.

*

He had a keyring so dusty, he looked like a fisherman of keys.

*

The socks tucked into the little shoes of the sleeping child wrinkle with his dreams.

***

This week The Friday Influence is proud to present the work of the Spanish poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna (1888-1963).

First, some reviews: “For me he is the great Spanish writer: the Writer, or rather, Writing…I also would have learned Spanish just to read him” (Octavio Paz).  “…the major figure of surrealism, in any country, has been Ramon” (Pablo Neruda). **

I share these quotes to show the range of influence Ramon (as he liked to be called)  had in his day.  Neruda’s Book of Questions (excerpts of which I translated last week) would not have been possible without the work of Ramon.  He wrote novels as well as stories and essays, but it is in his Greguerias that I feel his singular personality truly shines.

These sentences are packed with images and humor.  They take a little and expand it in the mind.  They do the work of haiku and aphorisms but with a distinct flavor.  I spoke last week of how a poet’s job is partly to see how much they can get away with.  In his Greguerias, Ramon gets (carried) away with himself.

Also, any writer who seriously writes about the stars after the Romantic period endears themselves to me.  Ramon’s work gave me permission to work out some single line poems of my own.  He has opened up to me what a sentence or two can offer lyric poetry.

I discovered his work two years ago by accident, working out my own ideas of prose poems.  His name came up in an essay and I made my way to his poems.  Seeing as he has stayed with me, I have decided to periodically sit down with his Greguerias and translate a few pages at a time.  If I get through the whole book in this manner, I’ll let you know.

Here’s a few more from Ramon:

The night lies there between blue eyelashes.

*

In autumn, the butterflies come out in the same red as the dry leaves, and the same wind sweeps up the one as the other.

*

After a while, the sound of the typewriter fills our thoughts with gravel.

*

Pinocchio opens books with his nose.

***

Happy gregueriando!

J

* translated by Jose Angel Araguz (word to vosotros!)

** quotes from Paz and Neruda found on Wikipedia (word to citations!)