* 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

* monopoem giveaway winners!

2016-12-08-10-06-12Just a quick post to announce the winners of the current Mosca Dragón monopoem giveaway: Laura Kaminski & Jennifer Met!

Both Laura and Jennifer were kind enough to share some poetry in their comments:

Laura shared these lines filled with stunning imagery:

the wing patterns of white-tailed dragonflies are tai chi fish
in flight: where his wings are burnished brown, hers are
transparent and in the spaces where his are so clear they’ve
become invisible all that he is missing can be found in her

And Jennifer shared the following haiku whose imagery becomes technical and personal in a short amount of time:

mating dragonflies—
my overuse
of dashes

(Aubrie Cox, Muncie, Indiana, Frogpond 35:2)

Both winners have been contacted and will have a monopoem sent their way shortly.

Should anyone else be interested in receiving a monopoem, feel free to send me an email [ thefridayinfluence@gmail.com ] between now and next Monday, and I’ll have one sent your way.

See you Friday!

José

* shifting with yosano akiko

akiko_yosano_youngerThis week I’m sharing tanka by Yosano Akiko as translated by Roger Pulvers.* In a previous post about her work, I focused on the role of tension in her poems. This time around, I have selected tanka that shift narratives midway.

Line by line, the three poems below develop their narrative arc, only to shift in the last two lines. This nuanced skill allows for shifts in perspective (first tanka), a shift in rhetoric (second), or a sudden shift in action (third). Each is a little drama that is accessible to the reader without losing any of its lyrical intimacy.

Two stars deep into heaven
Whispering love
Behind the nighttime curtain
While down below, now, people lie
Their hair in gentle disarray…

夜の帳にささめき尽きし星の今を下界の人の鬢のほつれよ

*

Made to punish men for their sins
The smoothest skin
The longest black hair…
All that
Is me!

罪おほき男こらせと肌きよく黒髪ながくつくられし我れ

*

The girl in a springtime window
Calls to awaken a young priest
Barely a man
His sutras toppled
By her dangling sleeve

うらわかき僧よびさます春の窓ふり袖ふれて經くづれきぬ

akiko_and_tekkan_yosano

Pulvers’ article ends with a final tanka which he prefaces by sharing how the poem was born out of Akiko’s husband, Tekkan, wanting “her to apply his blood to her lips as lipstick.” The manner in which Akiko describes and seizes upon how quickly physical things change reflects the emotional change and reaction to this strange, if intimate, request.

What will come into my burning lips?
You answer…
“The blood from my little finger.”
But that blood is too dry now
For my mouth

もゆる口になにを含まむぬれといひし人のをゆびの血は涸れはてぬ

*

Happy tanka-ing!

José

*Check out Roger Pulvers’ full article & translations here.

P.S.: Check out the giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

* new poem up Rove!

rovefall2016-logo2-3Just a quick post to announce the publication of the latest issue of Rove, a digital broadside quarterly!

Check out “The Rhetoric of Todo” , from my Nada Poems sequence, rendered as a beautiful digital broadside in this issue.

I am happy to have this poem presented alongside stellar work by Miriam Bird Greenberg, Tyler Brewington, and Katie Hibner. Check out the issue here.

Special thanks to Donika Kelly, Elizabeth Barnett, and Monte Holman at Rove!

See you Friday!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

surfacing with lisel mueller

I chose this week’s poem “In Praise of Surfaces” by Lisel Mueller in hopes of providing some further uplift after last week’s election. I say uplift but don’t mean dismissal or acceptance, words that keep arising in the conversations between my wife and I late into the night. Some part of us has grown quiet and we keep talking to bring it back.

Mueller’s poem is fitting as it centers on praise, which is a similar kind of reaching out. In each section of the poem, Mueller’s speaker displays a deft sensitivity not only to touch but to the ways language can touch such “surfaces.” If, as the speaker notes, “one flesh is all / the mystery we were promised,” then one praises mystery in praising the body’s surfaces. This urgency is carried through down through the final section’s skin diver conceit, where effort is placed behind the need for the speaker to “collect” the beloved  “rock by wet rock” and word by word.

underwater-23040_960_720

In Praise of Surfaces – Lisel Mueller

I

When I touch you
with hands or mouth,
I bless your skin,
the sweet rind
through which you breathe,
the only part
I can process.  Even
that branch of you
which moves inside me
does not deliver your soul:
one flesh is all
the mystery we were promised.

II

“To learn about the invisible,
look at the visible,” says
the Talmud.  I have seen you
for so long, you are
ground into the walls,
so long I can’t remember
your face when you’re away,
so long I have to look
each night when you come home
at the tall surprise you bring
me, time and time again.

III

Words too are surfaces
scraped or shaken loose.
When I listen to you
I pick up rocks,
shells, algae
brought up from darkness.
Sometimes I
come close to catching
a fish bare-handed;
angling, I always fail.
No skin diver, I
could never reach bottom;
rock by wet rock,
piecemeal,
I collect you.

*

Happy collecting!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

* heartening with jm miller

Paper Sparrows (At the Museum) – JM Miller

a slip of paper no larger than a dollar
records the scale of value for a slave.

Rows of age and rows of worth, the black
body’s gains & losses over time.

You see the paper is degrading, yellowing
tree fibers from an oily thumb nearly enough

to erase the pencil’s mark.

At the next exhibit white poets
read paper sparrows to sleep —

a stiff wind in their feathers — still
love in their curated bodies of paper.

They lean in until a black fly in the bird’s eye
tires, eating away the carrion into sight,

& they see suddenly a boy,
his invisible hands raised, opening his heart

to a country refusing to remember him.
Some keep the dead alongside them,

feathers in the cap, the bittersweet blues
of fairy tales, while others open & close

the birds’ beaks to hear
the price of a spirit, the labor of a body,

a hundred dollars for each year of your life,
the value of a dead boy in the street.

*

wilderness-lessons-book-coverI’m proud to share another round of poems from JM Miller’s collection, Wilderness Lessons (FutureCycle Press), which I did a microreview & interview of earlier this week.

This week has been tough for me. The election has left me devastated and fearful. I say this without any exaggeration, nor with any malice toward anyone. I speak primarily to share how I wake up feeling hyperaware of the color of my skin, what it might mean for my wife and I in public, and how people I love and care for from different backgrounds and communities are having to reckon with similar emotions and worries. Thank you to everyone who has reached out regarding our safety. Thank you for everyone who has shared some of their story and allowed me to carry some of the pain for them. If any of this hits home for you, please know you are not alone.

I return to the work of JM Miller this week with greater gratitude for the mixing of worlds and insights therein. In “Paper Sparrows (At the Museum),” I am moved by the way poetry can show how an abstract concept like history can be affected by “an oily thumb,” and is thus able to evoke the human pulse behind artifacts in a museum. With the metaphor of “paper sparrows,” Miller’s poem pushes against the museum narrative further, plunging into bird imagery until the reader is taken to a more contemporary moment. In a deft series of couplets, history and today’s fraught political climate are juxtaposed in a way that brings out the human element of exhibits and headlines.

This engagement with the human element is one of the many wonders of Wilderness Lessons. Miller’s poems present the world under our animal eyes in a way that reminds us what there is to value in it. I read the poem below this week and am heartened, able to recall that: It is good to be in this body, scrubbing the planet // from our hands, then reaching for more.

*

Equinox – JM Miller

The bus fills with apple slices of sun
on the burnt crest of equinox.

My love is at home lifting the last
golden beet from our tiny plot,

rinsing cool dirt from its roots, setting
aside its greens for dinner.

Here our bodies pinch slightly for balance
as our minds move sluggishly through time,

the hours pushing downward now, tender
rose hips wrinkling into pungent syrup

that leaves a river of stain on our fingers.
It is good to be in this body, scrubbing the planet

from our hands, then reaching for more.
The granite lid over Washington shadows in

from the southwest & we are none the worse
for loving, for losing horizon for so long.

Hunger is neither shame nor enough when
our bodies pull together in stillness.

*

Happy heartening!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

* microreview & interview: jm miller

For this microreview & interview, I present close readings of two poems from JM Miller’s collection Wilderness Lessons (FutureCycle Press, 2016), as well as share some insights from the poet on the work in their own words.

wilderness-lessons-book-cover

Field Notes (The Arcade Poem) – JM Miller

For fifty cents you can sharpen a fang,
sink your claw around the rifle’s trigger.

Take cover behind the bush, resist the rosemary’s
aroma, and sidle the plastic butt firmly to your shoulder.

Programmed sunset drips in the background, breathe
an arrow down the gun’s sight, you’ve been here before.

A deer hops through the pasture, nibbles oat straw,
looks straight up the rifle’s barrel.

Confess you love the composition, the way
it eases your senses into a finely tuned fork

banging against flawless crystal.
Confess you loved that talented seal on TV who gripped

drum sticks, beat Sweet Caroline into trash can lids
in David Letterman’s uptown studio.

The seal’s name was Henrietta and you wanted to accompany her
with your bamboo recorder like the solo performance

in the lunchroom when you were ten. All red-faced,
asphyxiated, and wanting to die. We were all dreams then.

Shoot the deer. You shoot the deer, drop the rifle,
and leave the bar. Who knew she’d come prancing out—first right to left

then so innocently left to right, begging to be seen.
The landscape drew you in, made a promise.

You became the animal you were meant to be.

*

Miller’s speaker here wastes no time in bringing the reader into the details of the scene. Yet, it is the diction and the subsequent character of narration where the scene comes to life. The phrasing of “sharpen a fang” and “sink your claw” frames a casual first person shooter at an arcade into animalistic transformation. In doing so, the poem amplifies the reality being replicated in the arcade game and immediately points to its problematic nature.

This high stakes approach is pursued as the poem goes on describing the “Programmed sunset…in the background.” The vividness of description is echoed in the speaker’s statement, “Confess you love the composition,” making use of the intimacy of narration to highlight the seduction inherent not only in the play of the arcade game but in the images as well. If “fifty cents” allows one to tap into a more animalistic state, then it is a (re)turn to something already inside human nature, something as tied to human experience as a childhood memory. From the pixellated scene of the game to a pixellated scene of a seal drumming on late night TV, the poem shifts into a parallel that further complicates its meditation on play and performance. Here, the line “The seal’s name was Henrietta and you wanted to accompany her” is telling; in one line, the speaker both humanizes the seal-turned-spectacle but also lays bare a feeling of being caught up in the spectacle (much as the speaker is caught up in the game early in the poem).

Thus, the speaker’s narrative is charged with a mix of culpability and innocence which points to an awareness of the stakes behind man-made “games” and “shows,” and what they trigger inside. In this light, the speaker’s admission that “We were all dreams then,” feels both like an explanation and an excuse. When the speaker admits, “You became the animal you were meant to be,” a note of betrayal and conscience is struck that rings out beyond any pixellated screen.

This note of mortal reckoning is picked up at several points throughout the collection. In the poem “Desert Autopsy (2012),” Miller announces that “the poets have arrived…[to] stand here in the hollowed tree, / language unfolding like children.” The phrase “language unfolding like children” speaks to the sense of witness that poets seem capable of, a witnessing that keeps things new and fresh. An example of this “unfolding language” can be seen mid-poem when the speaker states:

What is the effect of drought?
ask the government buildings
drawing blueprints to save the world,

while a pinyon tree simmers in its bark behind a plexi tower.
It shrivels, starves, lets its branches down.

By placing the question in the mouth of the concrete, inorganic presence of “the government buildings,” Miller is able to work a startling juxtaposition into human terms. While the question’s rhetoric places drought in the realm of the abstract and theoretical, the poem’s emphasis on the pinyon tree image brings us back to solid, living material. In these two stanzas, the image of government buildings and trees sound out the physical absence of humans as well as the full presence of human development.

As in the previous poem, the speaker here is aware of their implied role in this scene. Yet, in this poem, the speaker is able to point to the possibility of expanding their role as witness when they answer the question regarding drought with their own: “I can’t climb this picture, but can you imagine it?”

This second question is a compelling and engaging moment in a poem, and collection, that shows the value and power of such imagining.

*

Desert Autopsy (2012) – JM Miller

The harbor pulls in, pulls its sheet tight, pulling
the ground under.

Wintering conifers lean over the banks examining
barnacle-pendant, seaweed-swimsuit.

I, too, bend my body in the lean
for wild. To walk away from the sea
is to be naked at wartime,
a gazing body.

I remember the wrecked season, white bone
of drought, fire opening its giant jaws in the west,
gypsy moths spinning cocoons of sorrow.

On the last day of the year, pinyons and junipers are dying.
Fences in Los Alamos still breathe fire.

What is the effect of drought?
ask the government buildings
drawing blueprints to save the world,

while a pinyon tree simmers in its bark behind a plexi tower.
It shrivels, starves, lets its branches down.

I can’t climb this picture, but can you imagine it?
You’ve seen the pinyon grow, twisting like wet laundry
devoted to the wind sculpting mesa and valley.

I’ve heard the trees roam at night, calling with their voices.
What was it, the solemn whisper,
What calling rubbed the wind, combed the wintering
pencils of grass, laid bare the open spaces. And then I knew

it wasn’t for me, not me on the wind, not for me
were the long shadows, invisible xylem of veins,
not mine the forged silver, fortune of stars.

Army, the poets have arrived, call your horses, call
the cavalry. Lick your feathers, stick them to the dying.

We stand here in the hollowed tree,
language unfolding like children.

*

 

jm-headshot-2016

Influence Question: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be?

Poetry is an invitation to walk into an empty space of being. I wanted Wilderness Lessons to feel like an opportunity for a reader to walk into their own space and find themselves: their purest, most vulnerable self.

As a trans-writer, it is urgent for me to find myself in my work, it is a form of survival. I am looking for the self beyond labels and projections – the one free from attachments. When I started writing Wilderness Lessons several years ago I discovered a liminal space for existence. This would become known as the “Unbetween” – a place without relationality. I had been immersed in Brenda Hillman’s collection, Loose Sugar, and the poem “Unbetween” was a way for me to have a conversation with her work.

My hope is that “Unbetween” – which is not a space between things, but a liminal space, a nothing space, a no space – invites a reader’s pure spirit and phenomenology to the surface.

I remember reading a phrase from Adrienne Rich, that “poetry is not a healing balm,” nor many other things. But it does heal. It heals through a unique listening, an absolute presence. And it is my belief that as we heal ourselves, we gain the power to heal others, to heal the broken systems of our civilizations that enact oppression and violence against marginalized people and the planet and its beings.

Influence Question: What were the challenges in writing these poems and how did you work through them?

I got in my own way a lot throughout the writing of Wilderness Lessons, and most of that had to do with the need to dismantle the restrictions of what a poem can be or do. For instance, I admire ecstatic imagery and rational rhetoric, and I looked for ways to use them together in a lyric poem. Also, it seems like Round 7 of “End of the World” was the background hum to this collection. I was nearing a poetics of urgency, but still trying to have faith in representation and the lyric.

This book also marks a time of profound transformation in my life: getting comfortable with my trans identity, beginning to dismantle my white privilege, getting married, dedicating myself to teaching, living in a city and finding my way toward becoming an environmental activist. It was an urgent time, one of immense uncertainty. These poems were my way through the times in one’s life in which everything shows up and could be lost. These poems held; they found me and held on.

***

Special thanks to JM Miller for participating! Find out more about Miller’s work at their site. Wilderness Lessons can be purchased from FutureCycle Press.

*

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

* new work at Kettle Blue Review!

Just a quick note to announce the release of the latest issue of Kettle Blue Review!

In this issue, you’ll find two poems from my “Nada Poems” series: “Nada on the Swing” & “Nada’s Vanity.”

Happy to be part of a great issue! Check out the stellar work, including poems by Gail Goepfert, Christine Pacyk, and Mercedes Lawry here.

Special thanks to Lana Rakhman & everyone at KBR!

See you Friday!

José

* constellating with danielle cadena deulen

ouremotions_bThis week I’m sharing a poem from Danielle Cadena Deulen’s book Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us which I reviewed earlier this week.

In my review I focused on how the poems in the collection have a particular way of approaching the self as a moment of awareness and interpolation. This week’s poem, “Constellation,” does this work via the immediacy of a speaker engaged in an address of memory and revelation. By weaving the narrative of a specific memory with the narratives the speaker carries about their friend, the poem creates its own constellation of vivid recollection.

What holds these materials together is the box-like conceptual form, which begins with the first words of the poem: I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy. From the darkness behind the speaker’s eyes arises the memory of the friend with an immediacy and emotional charge that evokes the book’s title; the reader is “carried” into the memories of the speaker. Yet, with the poem’s final image, which compares the night sky to a box, we are once again in darkness, captivated by the voice of the friend, who gets in the last fateful word.

Constellation – Danielle Cadena Deulen

I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy
in the rain, zipping up his pants in the green,
hulking shrubs. You, marching out

like a one-girl parade, your face so white,
red-cheeked-cold and smiling like you do when
you’ve got away with something,

while I stand there as speechless as a crushed
bottle in the lot behind the 7-Eleven with
the other boy, wating for you to return

and not kissing him because I’ve never been
kissed by anyone but you and he’s not
prety. He’s smoked four Marlboros, shamed

them all beneath a rubber sole and picked at
the pimples on his chin, asking stupid
questions like So, do you like movies? And,

Do you think they’re doing it now? As if the
thought of you unbuttoning his dirty jeans and
kneeling down in the gravel at the roots

of the bush might inspire me to prostrate
myself before him, too. You’re fast.
You’re so fast that almost no one can see you,

that flash across your face when your boy
doesn’t stumble out declaring his love, when
we don’t applaud. No one but me can see

that you think he’s left you already–like your
father, your mother’s boyfriend, the last boy
you kissed and the boy before him. You’ll quit

school before you get through them all.
Sixteen and already a gallery of lovers: Boy
with Car, Boy with Tattoo, Boy with Crystal
–later,

the boy who will leave money on your dresser
before he strides out your door, your face full
of sores, your teeth knocked out. He appears

behind you, encircles your waists, sucks on your
neck just to leave a mark. When we’re lying,
legs tangled together later than night,

I’ll touch the indefinite edges of his love-
bruise, a darkness surfacing from within your
pale skin. Of the boy, you’ll say, He says

he thinks I’m pretty, and the stars, far up
beyond a torn screen of clouds, They’re like
diamonds in a box that no one opens.

*

* insert crickets sound here *

Happy constellating!

José

*

P.S. Check out the giveaway below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway