poetry feature: Clara Burghelea

This week’s poems are drawn from the poetry feature submissions! For guidelines on how to submit work, see the “submissions” tab above.

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This week I’m excited to share two poems by Clara Burghelea. I was taken right away by Burghelea’s work and how it develops lyric momentum through complex imagery. In “Nostalgia,” for example, the idea of being “sick” for a body “before it was a body” immediately kicks off from the title into a meditation how bodies develop both a physical and emotional history. The body that once was, as described in the first stanza, “a prettiness slender / like a smack of wind,” is later in the second stanza the body that has known “heart as a dark vessel” and has grown “thick with other people’s thoughts.” The logic of these lines is visceral; youth is evoked as the body being more feeling than physicality, until, with time, the body grows darker and more weighted. This movement from fleeting to stillness by the second stanza returns us to the title. Nostalgia is often thought of as a light thing, an activity of kitsch and cliche. Here, however, Burghelea presents the concept of nostalgia in a way that shows how much longing and reason for longing lie behind it.

body sketch
“Sketches 8” by Diana Schulz

In “The Self as Introduction,” too, the body implies movement. The poem begins with the following image: “No wound loathes its scar, / yet craves the radiant absence.” Through this phrasing, the reader is invited to hold two conflicting ideas at once, that of loathing and craving, in a way that implies an erasure of self. Yet, because this loathing and craving is proposed as being enacted by a wound, the erasure seems less dire, merely conceptual. There is space enough here to see the implied message that radiance may involve pain. This implication builds momentum as the poem develops and it becomes clear that the speaker is speaking about what is at stake in human relationships. The line “What fell from your lips / came to nest into my mouth,” for example, presents an image whose logic builds tension. Even in the distance between bodies, there is a momentum at work, the momentum of interpretation and of thought within silence. The poem ends with a frustration of sense (similar to the longing of “Nostalgia”) in its final lines: “The gap on the page, / a muttering under a kiss.” What Burghelea gives us in these poems, ultimately, is a sensibility able to clearly evoke how much and how little of the body we’re able to hold onto.

Nostalgia – Clara Burghelea

I’m sick for my body
before it was a body,
bereft of aching and desires,
unaware of the shortcomings,
a prettiness slender
like a smack of wind,
a breathing silk of youth crowning it,
ready to deliver itself to the world,
without knowing it would be hard
to hold back its lush of innocence.

The body that hadn’t known
heart as a dark vessel,
no push of wind to sail its burden.
That body that had yet to grow
thick with other people’s thoughts,
its taps in disarray,
not a weight erased
but a weight made bearable.
This body I mourn the most.

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The Self as Introduction – Clara Burghelea

No wound loathes its scar,
yet craves the radiant absence.

God’s laughter punctures
the arch of the sky

every new dawn,
eyes bandaged with light.

What fell from your lips
came to nest into my mouth

the thieving of the heart,
an unpremeditated entry.

The gap on the page,
a muttering under a kiss.

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Clara Burghelea HeadshotClara Burghelea is a Romanian-born poet. Recipient of the 2018 Robert Muroff Poetry Award, she got her MFA in Creative Writing from Adelphi University. Her poems, fiction and translations have been published in Full of Crow Press, Ambit Magazine, HeadStuff, Waxwing and elsewhere. Her collectionThe Flavor of The Other is scheduled for publication in 2019 with Dos Madres Press.

follow Clara on Twitter and Facebook

community feature: Artists Undeterred – Art Exhibit

This week, I’d like to introduce a new type of feature on the Influence: community features. In these features, I’ll be promoting events put on by marginalized literary communities and spotlighting their efforts. If you have a community you feel should be highlighted, feel free to message me about it either on Twitter (@JoseAraguz) or email  (thefridayinfluence@gmail.com)

ArtistsUndeterredPrideFinalFlyer

For this first community feature, I’m bringing attention to “Artists Undeterred” an art exhibit which opens at the Pride Center of Staten Island on August 11th at 7pm. The opening will feature artist commentary by LeVar “Var” Lawrence and a performance by Open Doors Reality Poets, of which Lawrence is a core member. To find out more about the event and explore links to the featured artists, go here.

This event came to my attention via Ani Schreiber, an artist whose work is part of the exhibit. I have had the honor of having Schreiber’s artwork feature on four of my chapbooks and all three of my full length poetry collections. Her work is marked by a rich directness steeped in realism, imagination, and vision.

For those who might not know, Schreiber is also my partner. We have been together for eight years, married for four of those. Over the years that we’ve been a part of each other’s lives, I have watched Schreiber come to terms not only with her disability but also with herself as an artist. Now, it is a problematic trope to discuss a disabled artist in terms of “bravery” or “admiration,” mostly because it fetishizes and condescends to people who are simply being people. So when I say that I have a great admiration for Schreiber and her work, it comes from a place of artist to artist and is informed by our personal history.

I have been there when she’s had to stop working on a project due to physical limitations and seen the frustration of those moments. I have also seen her suss out new mediums to continue at her work. Watching her do this navigating of the intersection where artistry and disability meet has resonated with me. There are lessons in perseverance that come with an artist’s life that don’t fit into instructional guides, and that drive home that you never know what a person’s been through to get to the creative act.

In the clip below which serves as an introduction to the Open Doors Reality Poets, Ramon “Tito” Cruz reads the following lines:

Soledad es una cosa que no se puede hablar
La soledad es una cosa que to puede matar

(Loneliness is a thing of which you cannot speak)
(Loneliness is a thing that can kill you)

These lines point to the loneliness of hardship which the creative act acknowledges. Events like the “Artists Undeterred” exhibit create spaces where the art resulting from this acknowledgment is celebrated and seen.

To find out more about Open Doors, go here.

with Rae Armantrout

This summer has me putting in office hours on campus, spending the mornings thinking through the syllabi & co. for the courses I’ll be teaching in the fall. I then, to varying success, allow myself time in the afternoon to work on writing projects, including a nonfiction essay collection, a book of poems in Spanish, and new poetry collection.

Could be the range of the projects, how each pushes me to different thresholds of memory, presence, and ability, but I’ve been experiencing pockets of doubt, not of the projects exactly (but maybe), more of my sense of what it means to articulate. If language is a wooden dock leading across water, then this doubt is the appearance of missing wood planks here and there, which make me falter, slow, change my gait. I’m sure it’s all part of another season in my understanding of writing and its place in my life, but damn if it ain’t awkward.

 4904054_ae891eb9I feel some of this awkwardness, at least in spirit, is evoked in Rae Armantrout’s poem “With” (below). While the poem doesn’t contemplate some odd metaphor of water and wood planks, its three sections stir up some dust around words and the meaning-making process. The first section brings attention to action, only to end on being “still.” This stillness is furthered in the second section by the mention of the act of writing. Yet, the dichotomy of action and stillness remains in the apt use of “or” and how it splits what the stanza presents into indecision. The third section departs in another direction, focusing on the word “with” and its inexactness. Armantrout’s sensitivity to language creates a moment that leaves the poem open-ended in a way that feels, in itself and the reading experience, like closure.

With – Rae Armantrout

It’s well
that things should stir
inconsequentially
around me
like this
patina of shadow,
flicker, whisper,
so that
I can be still.

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I write things down
to show others
later
or to show myself
that I am not alone with
my experience.

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“With”
is the word that
comes to mind,
but it’s not
the right word here.

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from Money Shot (Wesleyan University Press)

how i write

This week’s post consists of two parts: First, a blog post I wrote for a journal a few years ago that, for one reason or another, wasn’t used by them. The prompt was to describe your writing space and how you write, and also to include a picture of that space. The pencil sketch that constitutes the “picture” of my writing space was done by Ani Schreiber (@anischrieberart).

The second part of this week’s post is a poem of mine, “Engrossed,” which I thought would be a good complement to my discussion of engrossment and how I write.

Most of what I talk about in this piece still applies to my process now. The cities may change, but the page, the page is always present (presence).

Enjoy!

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HOW I WRITE – José Angel Araguz

The short answer to where I write is always: Anywhere I can. From subway trains to park benches, as long as my notebook is with me, I’m good to go. The answers to how and when are also short: By hand, and daily. I try to take at least thirty minutes a day to work out a few lines as well as to revise and jot down some notes on daily life. I prefer to write by hand because it keeps me close to words, to the messiness and pressure. I mean literal messiness, as my palms are often blotted with ink after a writing session. I usually find time in the morning; if not, I’ll steal some time between tasks later in the day. I also keep a bullet list going of things to write about later. If I keep at it, the list never lasts too long, and it also helps focus and do some memory work: What was it about the squirrel with half a tail that I wanted to say?

At my desk sketchThe pencil sketch of me at my desk was done a few years ago by my wife. What is shown in it points to the thread between the various where’s as well as the how and when. There is a particular engrossment that I fall into when I’m writing, and it is the source of a lot calm and excitement at the same time. In the sketch, I am at my present desk, a mess of notes on my corkboard, stacks of papers at my side. These are expected details, in a way, part of the writer-hamster wheel.

What I mean by engrossment, though, can be first seen in terms of what my body is doing. Only one leg is on the ground, barely; the other is up on the chair, tangled under me in what I’m sure is an unhealthy sitting position. Also, though I write with my right hand, my left shoulder is for some reason raised. Sometimes I rock a bit while I write; couldn’t tell you why, except that it is unintentional, and something I only catch after I’ve been doing it for a bit. The other thing to observe in the sketch is that I’m shirtless and in my boxers. This is kind of embarrassing to share, now that I think about it. But that’s just it: When I write, and how and where, all come together to get me to a place where I’m not thinking, where I’m lost in reverie or revelry to the point that I don’t even notice the scratch of my wife’s pencil behind me.

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Engrossed – José Angel Araguz

Grabbing a raincoat, I find a moth and ask:
What do you do here in my closet,
what of your light

to which he says: At the end of each night,
my light goes into my soul, what of
yours? The day is then

the weather’s blue colors, mirrors and rain,
that almost white where a thick darkness
blurs with a thick light.

Standing there, I see myself almost a man,
almost a moth, pieces of
a remembered face

brought up, overlapping, as if the changing face
were on old film, and that old film
played across moth wings

holding their position. Almost myself
frame by frame and without sound,
imposed on dust

for an audience. Almost my face holding
still, and face turning away. Face
of wing-wilt and wend.

Grabbing a raincoat, I found a moth and asked
myself about light, and myself answered
light; a moth

throbbed at having been found. When
my words had flickered aloud, the moth,
too, flickered,

an unknown face caught cringing, unfolding
face laughing, face
forgetting its name.

originally published in Qu

exquisiting with nathalie handal

This week’s poem, “White Trees” by Nathalie Handal, provided the first line to an exquisite corpse exercise I conducted with my classes this week. An exquisite corpse is a writing game created by surrealists and is conducted in a group setting. Each person writes down a line of poetry, then hands their paper to another person who then writes a line based on the previous one on the page; the paper then gets folded so that the first line is tucked away and only the most recent line is visible. The paper exchanges hands again, the poem growing line by half-glimpsed line.

Handal’s first line (When the white trees are no longer in sight) lent itself to a number of interesting following lines. One particular exquisite corpse poem started:

When the white trees are no longer in sight
I close my eyes and see the black ones
with large white fangs taunting me

black-and-white-branches-tree-highI feel the spirit of Handal’s poem lends itself to this particular exercise because of its logic and progression. Line by line, the poem deploys its images and metaphors, each one a turn down the hallway of the poem, a turn that leads to only more hallway, no doors or rooms. As the reading experience grows and the mind tries to gather a narrative from the lines, a lyrical logic takes over, and, instead of a linear narrative, what is evoked is the feeling of what is present slipping out of sight. This pattern of impression and shift of thought contains a spontaneity and surprise similar to that experienced in the writing of an exquisite corpse.

White Trees – Nathalie Handal

When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it’s over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew, the echoes that
once passed through us
as if they needed something we had.

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from Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)

Read more about the poet here.

futuring with julio cortázar

two personal notes

I want to first acknowledge and show my support for anyone suffering and struggling due to Hurricane Harvey. In my world, I have been checking in with my family in Corpus Christi since last Thursday. Everyone is safe there; struggled without power from last Friday to Wednesday, but safe. I have done my best to reach out to my Texas friends and other family, and only wish I had more hours in the day. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and shown me and my family support! It means a lot to come together in the face of such disaster. I spent a lot of time thinking of the various hurricanes I lived through as a child and teenager in Corpus, evacuations and refuge sought.

In the midst of the stress and tension of the above, I also participated in my first convocation as a professor at Linfield College as well as my first week of teaching. It was also my birthday last week – so, y’know, things were interesting, ha. I spent the eve of my birthday cleaning house, sweeping and mopping through midnight, the whole time worried about my family.

AerialCorpusChristi
corpus, my corpus

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This quick paraphrase of the fraught mix of light and dark times that have been my last few weeks is mirrored, in a way, in this week’s poem by Julio Cortázar. In “El Futuro/The Future,” Cortázar does a great job of creating a poem of love and affection that also acknowledges the tenuous and mortal circumstances through which love is found between people. In considering a world without their “you,” the speaker creates a space of presence. By the end, the poem stands as a testament to the feelings and meaning that the missing always leave us with.

The Future – Julio Cortázar

And I know full well you won’t be there.
You won’t be in the street, in the hum that buzzes
from the arc lamps at night, nor in the gesture
of selecting from the menu, nor in the smile
that lightens people packed into the subway,
nor in the borrowed books, nor in the see-you-tomorrow.

You won’t be in my dreams,
in my words’ first destination,
nor will you be in a telephone number
or in the color of a pair of gloves or a blouse.
I’ll get angry, love, without it being on account of you,
and I’ll buy chocolates but not for you,
I’ll stop at the corner you’ll never come to,
and I’ll say the words that are said
and I’ll eat the things that are eaten
and I’ll dream the dreams that are dreamed
and I know full well you won’t be there,
nor here inside, in the prison where I still hold you,
nor there outside, in this river of streets and bridges.
You won’t be there at all, you won’t even be a memory,
and when I think of you I’ll be thinking a thought
that’s obscurely trying to recall you.

translated by Stephen Kessler in Save Twilight: Selected Poems (City Lights Books)

El Futuro – Julio Cortázar

Y sé muy bien que no estarás.
No estarás en la calle, en el murmullo que brota de noche
de los postes de alumbrado, ni en el gesto
de elegir el menú, ni en la sonrisa
que alivia los completos en los subtes,
ni en los libros prestados ni en el hasta mañana.

No estarás en mis sueños,
en el destino original de mis palabras,
ni en una cifra telefónica estarás
o en el color de un par de guantes o una blusa.
Me enojaré, amor mío, sin que sea por ti,
y compraré bombones pero no para ti,
me pararé en la esquina a la que no vendrás,
y diré las palabras que se dicen
y comeré las cosas que se comen
y soñaré los sueños que se sueñan
y sé muy bien que no estarás,
ni aquí adentro, la cárcel donde aún te retengo,
ni allí fuera, este río de calles y de puentes.
No estarás para nada, no serás ni recuerdo,
y cuando piense en ti pensaré un pensamiento
que oscuramente trata de acordarse de ti.

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Happy futuring!

José

blurring via bei dao

Sometimes a poem blurs the line between where one is and what one feels in a fruitful way. In Bei Dao’s “The Boundary,” one sees this kind of blurring happen in the repetition of the phrase “I want to go to the other bank”  and the images between them. The repeated phrase has the directness of desire and logic, which is tested by the images of the river “altering” both sky and speaker. These observations lead up to the repetition of the opening phrase, which, in being repeated, feels like an attempt to counter the altering just implied.

Yangshuo Li River Valley Fisherman China BoatAs the poem develops its ending, the image of a pigeon flying towards the speaker is another observation, another thing altering what is in the poem, and completely interrupting the desire of the opening phrase. The image of the pigeon is one of action; the boundary of the title, then, can be seen as being between this active reaction to the world and the more passive, internal (re)action of observing and desiring that is poetry.

 

The Boundary – Bei Dao

I want to go to the other bank

The river water alters the sky’s colour
and alters me
I am in the current
my shadow stands by the river bank
like a tree struck by lightning

I want to go to the other bank

In the trees on the other bank
a solitary startled wood pigeon
flies towards me

translated by Bonnie S. McDougall from THE AUGUST SLEEPWALKER

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Happy banking!

José

Goodreads Book GiveawaySmall Fires by Jose Angel Araguz

Small Fires

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends August 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

new #poetsofinstagram interview!

Just a quick post to share my latest interview in my #poetsofinstagram series over at the Cincinnati Review blog! Read it here.

This time around @colette.lh shares some of her stunning work as well as insights into what motivates and inspires her writing.

Be sure to check out my own @poetryamano account, a poetry project focused on poems made by hand. I’ve been working a lot with erasures recently!

See you Friday!

José

new poems up at Gris-Gris & new CR post!

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

* new work & nomination!

Just a quick post to share that my poem, “Cazar Means to Hunt Not to Marry,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by December Magazine. This poem is part of my second collection, Small Fires, forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

This poem can be read at December Magazine’s site along with the other stellar nominees here.

Thank you to December Magazine for the support and community!

See you Friday!

José