community feature: The Offing

A pic of protesters, two signs clearly visible, one reading “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and the other reading “BLM.”

This week, I’d like to take a moment and highlight the good people at The Offing for their continued efforts to raise awareness within the writing community and engage us in initiatives against systemic racism. This past June they released “We Stand With the People” an open letter stating their commitment “to the work of Black, Indigenous, POC, Women, GNC, LGBTQ+, Disabled, and all marginalized peoples” and asking others to join them in taking a stand against white supremacy. The editors invited other literary journals to sign the letter and join them in their work, which I promptly did on Salamander’s behalf.

Part of their continued work after this public statement is to start a series of 10 letters dedicated to “engaging The Offing’s literary network in social justice and a value shift toward equity within our respective organizations.” Last month, The Offing published the first of ten letters written by Aurielle Lucier and “hope each letter acts as a wake-up call.” In this first letter, along with offering resources, Lucier makes clear:

This project is…an invitation to focus your attention and extend your support beyond platitudes, legislative Band-Aids or monetary contributions. I am not asking that you simply carry Breonna and Tony and Rayshard and George and Ahmaud’s memories close to your hearts. Rather, I implore you to, not unlike protestors, shift your behavior to match your beliefs. I invite you to orient yourself toward justice, to move as one who believes that your freedom is inextricably linked to mine, and act beyond your comfort or convenience. 

Of the many things I admire in this quote, the core one is how Lucier posits the work to be done as both outer and inner, social and personal. This multiplicity of stakes, awareness, and investment is something that as a marginalized person I have always lived with. It is something marginalized folks are born into having to reckon with. Political conversations–however formal or informal, in person or online–are never theory, but rather grounded in experiences. That the election was as close as it was means few marginalized folks are breathing easier.

I encourage y’all to read these materials and also to check out The Offing. Also, take time to reflect. Are you taking time to consider the welfare of others? To learn about them? To connect, we need to see each other as well as see ourselves, know their stories as we know our own.

I’ll leave you with two poems to check out. In working with a student on an essay about the Black Lives Matter movement, I shared these poems and spoke of poetry as a space of presence. Words, inside of us as outside of us, are where we can be present with others. Thank you for taking the time to be present here.

unsilencing in these times, ha

Let me start off with a half-quandary / half-aphorism:

Post-election isn’t exactly post yet–what’s that s’post to mean?

I’m still nervous.

A photo of a forest from above by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Alright, now that I got that out of my system, here are some thoughts from this past week:

  • I caught myself sharing with my students in passing that life’s been sad and busy mostly and, well, I don’t lie to my students.
  • That said, been enjoying conversations across the courses I teach. My composition students are expanding their sense of the world and the intersection between literature and politics–all thanks to this essay by Yong Jie who gives a dynamic breakdown of an Italo Calvino quote about literature giving voice to the voiceless. Amen.
  • My poetry students are also expanding their sense of freedom on the page. One even articulated something at the core of my teaching in her own words: “The duality of the lines relates back to our class discussions of how behind every mark on the page, there has to be strong intent by the writer.” I say the core of my teaching–perhaps I mean the core of what I aspire to in my work on and off the page. Finding intent, of life and of each poem, that’s the mission.
  • Speaking of my poetry students, I am excited to be doing the work of expanding what a creative writing workshop can be. One resource that’s helped a lot was this essay by Beth Nguyen who breaks down the value of allowing a writer to speak during workshop. I tried and, well, wouldn’t you know, a writer smiled in workshop and all writers learned as well. It was something special to be a part of.
  • Lastly, check out this poem by Jessica Salfia made from the first lines of emails received during quarantine. That she was able to compose this by April of this year shows how quick we are to language, and how quick language is away from us.

I’m enjoying writing these posts. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re finding rest and peace of mind as you need to.

dispatch: last week’s events & this week’s thoughts

Just a quick post to share the recordings from last week’s events!

First up is the Far Villages Anthology Talk, “Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World.” I joined Gillian Parrish, and Kathryn Hummel for a conversation moderated by the insightful Abayomi Animashaun. Our conversation included a discussion of what we termed the “empathetic imagination” as well as working across different languages, different countries, and different practices. Check it out below! Also, check out the Far Villages anthology here.

Next up is the Salamander Issue #50 Virtual Reading with readers: Rajiv Mohabir, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and Anne Kilfoyle. I had a great time hosting this first virtual event for the Salamander community. As part of my intro, I included a few words in memory of Leslie McGrath who passed away this summer. I also read her poem “Ars Poetica” which I encourage y’all to check out. Here’s the event itself!

Lastly, I am writing and posting this a little later than usual for me. Main reason being that my mind’s been overwhelmed with the election which has yet to be called. It’s been a trying year already and this seems to be taking us deeper into the crucible. Whatever the results, it shouldn’t be this close. The gravity of what it being this close truly means is crushing. I wish you all sleep and peace of mind.

dispatch: virtual events this week!

A quick post sharing info on a few events I’ll be a part of this week:

The book cover for Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets.

First, I’m excited to be a part of a talk celebrating the anthology Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets (Black Lawrence Press). Here’s the full info:

Tuesday, 10/27 @ 8PM EDT–Talk: Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World Featured Contributors: Stephen Page, Jose Angel Araguz, Ben White, Gillian Parrish, Kari Treese, and Kathryn Hummel

Each contributor will read for ten minutes, then we’ll be engaged in a conversation regarding the theme of our essay.

Register here for this event.

Also, check out my post about this anthology here.

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A flyer for the Salamander reading featuring author photos.

Also, this Friday me and the Salamander crew will be hosting the “Salamander #50 Virtual Reading.” Here’s the full info:

Friday, 10/30 @ 6PM EDT-Reading: “Salamander #50 Virtual Reading” Featured readers: Rajiv Mohabir, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and Anne Kilfoyle

Come join us for what will be a great, dynamic reading of poetry and prose!

Register here for this event.

Also, check out excerpts of this issue here.

Have a good week y’all!

turn, volta, turn

Some quick thoughts and sharings from this week:

  • As many of you know, I’m a board member of CavanKerry Press, and I’m excited about the work done by this literary organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve managed to maintain their staff and publishing schedule, while conducting various community outreach events virtually. They are currently doing a fundraiser which I encourage y’all to check out at their site along with their current collections. They also have some of their literary anthologies available for free electronically.
  • One win for the week was getting the laundry done just before the machines were replaced in our building. And when I say just before, I mean JUST before–like, I came back to get things out of the dryer and the washers were gone. And if this doesn’t seem like a win to you, we’re not living in the same pandemic.
  • Spent some time discussing Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “What lips my lips have kissed…” with my students this week. I shared my would-be-in-conflict-if-it-wasn’t-me ideas of needing to look into the tradition of the sonnet while also subverting it for their own contemporary ends–like seriously let’s shut down the tradition of sonnets centered around the male gaze and the needing to sound clever and Shakespeare-like and have sonnets about chanclas!!! One student contributed to the spirit of this by making us aware of a volta before the volta–volta meaning the turn in argument that a traditional sonnet has. While the standard volta happens at the line “Thus in the winter” where the poem’s image parallel of the lone speaker and lone tree comes into play, there is what I would term a minor turn earlier at the line “And in my heart…” where the speaker goes from looking outside to looking at what she feels inside. Check it out and see what you think 🙂

Been sharing the meme below with students. I share it with you hoping that if you feel called out, know that you matter. Let’s keep keeping it together together.

A meme with a crowd of Spidermans on one side and one solo Spiderman on the other, each are pointing across at each other in recognition. Over the crowd it says “Students barely keeping it together this semester” and over the solo it says “Professor barely keeping it together this semester.”

exhausted seltzer

Image description: A black square with the following written in white letters: “Your quarantine nickname is: How you feel right now + The last thing you ate”

Ran across this square in one of R.O. Kwon’s tweets (her novel The Incendiaries is dope, btw!!!) and due to the moment time of time I came across it, “exhausted seltzer” is what you can call me. In true poet luck, I’m charmed by the combination of words. I mean, seltzer when exhausted is flat, technically–which applies to how I’ve been feeling lately. Mind, I’m not feeling this when doing readings or when teaching–those are spaces where the energy I put out is given back, conversations and events that give back some of the fizz (oof, rough metaphor, I know). Rather, it’s the weight of ALL THE THINGS going on, all at once, and constantly happening.

If you can at all relate, please be kind to yourselves. Maybe have a seltzer, ha.

Rembrandt’s painting, “Head of an Old Man in a Cap”

Been missing posting, but also been exhausted, so will be here in shorter posts as a compromise. On that note, here’s the last poem I recommend, Garrett Hongo’s “The Legend.” It’s a powerful elegy that in its scope pays tribute to the memory of Jay Kashiwamura, managing the humanity of the life lost against references to Descartes and Rembrandt.

It’s the latter, the line “There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,” that guided my recommendation–specifically to my poetry workshop students. The ability to borrow this aspect of Rembrandt’s work and connect it across time and space in this poem is powerful. May we all be able to find some of this glow in our lives.

dispatch: post-reading, new anthology, & new review

A brown man standing before a laptop reading poetry.

First off, thank you to everyone who was able to attend the readings this past weekend! On Friday night, I was delighted to share space with r. erica doyle and Adeeba Shahid Talukder. The reading was in celebration of Adeeba’s collection Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved (Tupelo Press, 2020). Check out “For Qays.” Thank you to the NYU Creative Writing Program and Kundiman for hosting us!!!

Thank you as well to the Suffolk Intertextuals for inviting to read this Saturday! I enjoyed being able to share a range of work including my two poems featured in the new anthology Dreaming: A Tribute to Selena Quintanilla Pérez (FlowerSong Press, 2020). Check out this post I shared earlier on “The Things to Fight Against” also included in my book Small Fires.

Lastly, I am happy to share my latest review for The Bind has gone live! This time, I spend time with Sara Borja’s Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff (Noemi Press), breaking down the collection’s engagement with imagination and experience. I also include a writing prompt 🙂

Hope you’re all staying safe and well, questioning and fighting against systemic oppression!

Más later!

José  

Virtual Poetry Readings this weekend!

Hi y’all,

Just a quick post to share about two virtual poetry readings I’ll be a part of this weekend!

Friday, October 9th @8pm EST: 
“A Virtual Reading to Celebrate Adeeba Shahid Talukder’s ‘Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved’ featuring José Angel Araguz, r. erica doyle, and Adeeba Shahid Talukder

Register for this event here: https://nyu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwoduusrT8qHtSJXOMbf-III24bIYzAi9ma

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Saturday, October 10th @6pm EST:
Suffolk Intertextuals Poetry Reading in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month: José Angel Araguz (w/ Q&A)

(To receive the link for this event, please email me directly at: thefridayinfluence@gmail.com — thank you!)

Here below are the flyers for the events–hope you’re safe and well in your respective worlds (más soon)!!!

 

new poems out in the world!

Just a quick note to share news of some recent publications:

First, I’m happy to report that the good folks at the Laurel Review gave two new prose poems a home, “Wax Lips” and “Pavlovian.” Special thanks to editor extraordinaire John Gallaher and co. for the support!

Also, I’m happy to share that two poems (“Negative” and “To a Corkscrew”) from another project are featured in the latest edition of Spacecraft Project. Special thanks to Gillian Parrish for the support!

Check out “To a Corkscrew” below and click here to read “Negative” over at Spacecraft Project.

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José Angel Araguz

To a Corkscrew

My hand steadies
your twisted line—
I think of my father,
if I’m meeting him

here. This
night-colored wine
wavers between us,
its taste shaped

by so much waiting. Once open,

the air
begins to change
what waits—

you’re stuck where I can’t see you, the burn

of before—

only after
aches in my hand.

microreview & interview: Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals by Laura Cesarco Eglin

review by José Angel Araguz

Lifeonenotattachedtoconditionals_Cover_Final

The idea of poetry as healing is one that is easily romanticized. This romanticizing comes often with an air of distance: poetry as balm after the fact of hurt. However, there is another facet to healing, one rawer and more immediate, that poetry can tap into. Poetry as stitches being sewn; as open wound learning to close and scar. Through the dynamic lyricism found throughout Laura Cesarco Eglin’s latest collection, Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals (Thirty West Publishing House, 2020), we come across a poetic sensibility reaching for this latter intersection between the poetic act and healing.

When the speaker of “Melanoma Lines,” for example, shares with the reader “I know / how to listen to what’s not ready,” it is a statement that brings the reader closer to her experience. To know how to “listen” is to know what to listen for, to forge, in this case by necessity, an awareness. Later, in the same poem, the speaker gives an idea of the cost of this knowing:

I smelled myself being burned.
Cauterized, they said, as if I
didn’t know how to detect euphemisms

These lines continue the theme of immediacy and closeness, first through the sensory details of “smelled” and “burned.” Then, by singling out the outside word “Cauterized, they said,” immediacy is implied through the distant air of medical terminology, which the speaker distrusts as detected “euphemisms.” Making this distinction evokes for the reader the nuances of living with melanoma, a reality that is at the heart of this collection. The nuance engaged with here is that on the level of simultaneity and presence: simultaneity in that both “burned” and “Cauterized” exist in the same poetic space as the physical sensation being described by these two words exists for the same person; presence in the voice making these distinctions and dwelling on them.

In “Wrinkled Brow,” further distinctions are made in the same spirit about a headache that occurs “when your diagnosis / returns to melanoma.” Leaping from the imagery suggested in the title, the speaker describes the headache first as “a hefty dark gray cloud” rumbling in, then as “a coup / pressing on my brow, pressing on my thoughts.” This rumble of internal pressure is shown to have effects beyond the physical as the speaker goes on to declare:

so I refuse to iron my shirts
because matters aren’t that simple.
I let it all show,
revealing not that I am unkempt
but that I am
aware.

These lines are telling and powerful on a few levels. First, the title is evoked again in the first line here and expanded upon to the end of the poem. The “simple” act of ironing shirts works here through its implication of order and tidiness, ideas that run counter to the speaker’s experience. In stating that “matters aren’t that simple,” we are returned to the same sensibility of “Melanoma Lines” and that speaker’s calling out of euphemisms for pain. For the speaker here to “let it all show” through a refusal to iron her shirts is to again not kid herself as to the truth of her experiences. Another act of reclaiming and redefinition occurs here, as in “Melanoma Lines,” in the way the speaker clarifies that she is “not…unkempt / but… / aware.” The presence implied in these lines is forceful in an illuminating way. This poem focused on meditating on a physical headache is reframed by the end as a poem about how pain can often have one fighting to stay connected to one’s sense of self.

Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals offers a poetry engaged with survival and healing, and understanding the flux in between. Like the image in “Holding Space for Self” where “the beginning / of crying” is described as “far away / from the eyes—what rips apart” or the line in “Articulating the Change in My Body” where the speaker gives us the line “These scars belong here” rendered in Morse code on the page, Eglin explores and details her experiences with melanoma, and along the way works out a hard-earned wisdom that doesn’t preach but rather makes itself realized and felt. The travel of metaphor and image in “Landmarks” (below) is a good example of what I mean.

So much of healing is out of one’s hands. So much of healing is not healing. So much of healing is keeping up with shifting physical circumstances that force the sense of self to change. Through engagement with the refusals and moments of awareness brought on by the flux between pain and healing, Eglin’s poems offer readers survival as intimate knowledge and fact.

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Laura Cesarco Eglin

Landmarks

Des Moines bridges remind me
of my scar, so recent
it’s still red and tender and
hurts like arriving
in a new city. One
long line adorned with deep
raw dots on each side. It could
well be a doodle, one I make
absentmindedly—like without
realizing it, cancer has drawn
on me, even if I’d decided
I wouldn’t have it.

The bridges here are plural
to connect the East and West,
to connect the skin back to itself with
seventeen sutures, duplicated—
again a plural, like the echo
of the doctor’s voice in my head:
it will come back.

Many bridges, an attempt
to keep me in one piece;
an attempt to keep me
alive long enough
to cross them all.

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

Laura Cesarco Eglin: Poetry is how poets engage with the world and contribute to it. Poetry, together with translation in my case, is how I think and observe. It’s a way of raising questions and challenging the status quo. Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals takes the repetition and pattern of biopsy, wait, surgery, biopsy, wait, surgery, and uses it to investigate repetition, cycles, near-repetitions, and to find ways to write alternatives. This exploration of possibilities and transformation are part of poetry and translation. The practice of facing situations, working with language, examining details, and letting go, inherent in poetry and translation, are very much a part of Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals.

Question: One of the aspects of this collection that felt most compelling was how the poems moved between the body and the mind, the mind here meaning both memory and imagination as well as immediate sensation. What was it like negotiating those spaces creatively? 

Laura Cesarco Eglin: Actually, I think it is negotiation, but not between memory, imagination, and immediate sensation. Rather, it’s negotiation between how we are expected to operate in the world, i.e. the norm, and how we actually live. This navigating between body and mind and memory and imagination and sensation and thoughts and, and, and, is how my mind works, how it connects from one (image, thought, feeling, memory, etc.) to the other, and holds them, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes in succession, sometimes at a slow pace, sometimes the pace is faster. Poetry allows me to express myself as myself. Poetry allows for ambiguity and simultaneity and association and contradiction and imagination to co-exist. It doesn’t impose an order, a rule, a particular structure. Life is like that: “the disarray in a bouquet, welcomed after having figured out the countless permutations of this is not a fixed arrangement.

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Special thanks to Laura Cesarco Eglin for participating! To keep up with Laura’s work, check out her site. Copies of Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals can be purchased from Thirty West Publishing House.

lauce mayo 2020Laura Cesarco Eglin is a poet and translator. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Calling Water by Its Name, translated by Scott Spanbauer (Mouthfeel Press, 2016), Sastrería (Yaugurú, 2011), and Reborn in Ink, translated by Catherine Jagoe and Jesse Lee Kercheval (The Word Works, 2019). She has also published three chapbooks: Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals (Thirty West Publishing House, 2020), Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate  (The Lune, 2015), and Tailor Shop: Threads, co-translated with Teresa Williams (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her poems, as well as her translations (from the Spanish, Portuguese, Portuñol, and Galician), have appeared in a variety of journals, including Asymptote, Modern Poetry in Translation, Eleven Eleven, Puerto del Sol, Copper Nickel, Spoon River Poetry Review, Arsenic Lobster, International Poetry Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Blood Orange Review, Timber,Pretty Owl Poetry, Pilgrimage, Periódico de Poesía, and more. Cesarco Eglin is the translator of Of Death. Minimal Odes by the Brazilian author Hilda Hilst (co•im•press), winner of the 2019 Best Translated Book Award in Poetry. She co-translated from the Portuñol Fabián Severo’s Night in the North (Eulalia Books, 2020). She is the co-founding editor and publisher of Veliz Books.