artificing with denise levertov

Poems have a way of changing the things around us, allowing us to reconcile with and reimagine them at the same time. In this week’s poem, “The Wedding Ring” by Denise Levertov, a wedding ring goes from being listed among forgotten things in a basket to being seen for what else it could become. Along the way, the speaker goes into what the ring has meant up to this point.

metal-ring-1152237_960_720What occurs in this mix of looking backward and forward is an evocation of the personal meaning of the wedding ring; this evocation isolates the ring, and allows for an imaginative distance. The “artificer” imagined towards the end who is able to re-work the ring strikes me as a metaphor for the poet. In poems, we work “simple gifts” out of the materials of a fleeting existence.

The Wedding Ring – Denise Levertov
My wedding-ring lies in a basket
as if at the bottom of a well.
Nothing will come to fish it back up
and onto my finger again.
                                      It lies
among keys to abandoned houses,
nails waiting to be needed and hammered
into some wall,
telephone numbers with no names attached,
idle paperclips.
                      It can’t be given away
for fear of bringing ill-luck
                      It can’t be sold
for the marriage was good in its own
time, though that time is gone.
                      Could some artificer
beat into it bright stones, transform it
into a dazzling circlet no one could take
for solemn betrothal or to make promises
living will not let them keep? Change it
into a simple gift I could give in friendship?

smoking with george oppen

Some poems are capable of tapping into the connotations or “languages” around a word and making them meet. This week’s poem, “If It All Went Up in Smoke” by George Oppen, for example, does a great job of taking the languages of  the word “smoke” and blurring them to create a visceral metaphor.

First, there is the paradoxical logic of the initial two lines: “that smoke / would remain,” which presents the image of smoke hanging in the air. Then through “light” “footprints” and “grass blades,” the logic of the poem further develops from transient, slight things, only to have that idea pushed against by the solidity of “wells” and the presence of “distances.”

As smoke is always in motion, so is language and, by default, poetry. Smoke is also after-the-fact, needing to arise from a fire. From the fire of experience (“grass / blades”), begins the smoke we write and read in poetry.

smoke-32

If It All Went Up in Smoke – George Oppen

that smoke
would remain

the forever
savage country poem’s light borrowed

light of the landscape and one’s footprints praise

from distance
in the close
crowd all

that is strange the sources

the wells the poem begins

neither in word
nor meaning but the small
selves haunting

us in the stones and is less

always than that help me I am
of that people the grass

blades touch

and touch in their small

distances the poem
begins

*

Happy beginning!

José

story work with naomi shihab nye

Building off of last week’s theme of story work, this week’s poem – “The Story, Around the Corner” by Naomi Shihab Nye – presents another side of stories.

Here, a story takes on human attributes, including free will. The logic of the poem develops the idea of a story as being out of our hands, being made up of “[riffs] of common talk.” This logic then deepens; lines discussing “a city you don’t live in, where people / might shop forever or throw a thousand stories / away” have great yet nuanced implications. The story as entity is a creature of chance and circumstance, much like ourselves.

japan-217882_960_720Because the language remains nonspecific, we are in the position as readers to intuit the “story” of the poem in our own way. It’s the kind of poem I like to meditate on during stressful times because it speaks at a register that is heard before I can resist. Not sure if that make sense. What I’m getting at is that at the end of reading the poem, I am left with my own idea of the “story” knocking and waiting for an answer — and, for a moment, I glimpse what it would it would be like to give one.

The Story, Around the Corner – Naomi Shihab Nye

is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.

*

Happy answering!

José

saying with william stafford

Scars – William Stafford

They tell how it was, and how time
came along, and how it happened
again and again. They tell
the slant life takes when it turns
and slashes your face as a friend.

Any wound is real. In church
a woman lets the sun find
her cheek, and we see the lesson:
there are years in that book; there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.

Rows of children lift their faces of promise,
places where the scars will be.

*

Reaching out to William Stafford’s work today in light of the inauguration. Fear still finds its way into conversations between me and Ani. I find myself thinking back on other elections, other times when the “slant” life took unsettled me. Whatever happens, I am grateful again for my readers – of the blog, of the work, of poetry in general. Through these words of ours we learn from each other.

Frozen_River.jpgThe poem above floors me by the subtle way it develops its metaphors, culminating in the image “there are years in that book.” I think of Stafford as one of the great “readers” of the books in scars and moments. Such careful reading breeds careful saying. The poem below is a good example. If read too fast, one might miss what is being said. You might think that the way with all poems. Pues, so it goes. It has taken me years of loving this poem to begin to hear the river elsewhere coursing the river frozen here. Here’s to continuing forward with our saying and listening.

*

Ask Me – William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.  Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait.  We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

*

Happy saying!

José

* in solitudarity with dulce maría loynaz

LXV

Pasaste por mi corazón como el temblor de luz por la colmada red del pescador.

LXV*

You poured through my heart like the shimmering light that streams through the fisherman’s loaded net.

*

dulce_mascota_preferida

This week I have been spending time with the work of Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz. As can be noted above, the conciseness of imagery and sensibility in her prose make for stunning moments of lyrical insight. Haiku-like, Loynaz’s prose captures a fleeting moment in language, and grounds it in human immediacy.

In the poem below, one can see Loynaz engage with the concept of solitude, one of the major themes of her work. Solitude becomes its own presence and antagonist in her work; in many ways, solitude is the medium through which Loynaz understands the world and channels the work of her poems. In poems charged with its pangs, Loynaz provides the reader the experience of what it feels like to engage with solitude on a level where it imbues the world with its color and meaning.

*

XLIII

Tuve por tanto tiempo que alimentar la soledad con mi sangre, que tengo miedo ahora de encontrarme sin sangre entre tus brazos… O de encontrarte a ti menos en ellos que lo que te encontraba en mi ardorosa y viva soledad.
De tal modo te he fundido en ella y yo contigo, de tal modo le he ido traspasando anhelos, sueños gestos y señales, que tal vez nuestro encuentro sólo sea el de dos nubes en el cielo o dos desconocidos en la tierra.

XLIII

I have fed my solitude so much blood that I’m afraid of feeling nothing when you hold me in your arms. Or maybe I’m scared of finding you less in your embrace than I did in my fierce and fervent solitude.
I have dissolved you into my solitude, and myself into you, in such a way that I have given my solitude my desires and my dreams, my gestures and my traits, and now I wonder if our meeting has been anything more than two clouds passing in the sky, or two strangers passing on earth.

*

Happy solituding!

José

P.S. 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.

*All English translations are from James O’Connor’s book of Loynaz translations, Absolute Solitude: Selected Poems (archipelago books).

* haiku & new monopoem giveaway!

I lay down
all the heavy packages —
autumn moon.

Patricia Donegan

*

reaching the top
of the mountain
losing the mountain

Michael Fessler

*

losing its name
a river
enters the sea

John Sandbach

*

say no words
time is collapsing
in the woods

Sonia Sanchez

*

The above haiku are drawn from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, an anthology I spent time with this week as I wrapped up work at the CR for the semester. The editors provide a great sense of the many paths haiku has been taken on in the English language. I like returning to short lyric forms as seasons change. Helps me pay attention to the details.

Before I share more excerpts from this great anthology, I wanted to thank everyone who entered the Goodreads giveaway for Everything We Think We Hear! Winners have been chosen and will have books sent their way next week. The ten winners will also be receiving copies of the latest Mosca Dragón, my monopoem series. This issue features another poem from my forthcoming collection Small Fires.

2016-12-08-10-06-12Additionally, I am doing a MONOPOEM GIVEAWAY as a thank you to all of you who follow my blog. In order to participate, simply leave a comment below stating your interest in receiving a monopoem. I will keep track of who comments and will pick winners at random. The announcement of winners will be on Wednesday, December 14th! Feel free to comment on this post for a chance to win (on Monday, I’ll give folks another chance).

Here are a few more excerpts from the haiku anthology:

rising river
a shadow still wedged
between the rocks

Susan Constable

*

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.

Richard Wright

*

whittling
till there’s nothing left
of the light

Jim Kacian

*

mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

Roberta Beary

*

Happy detailing!

José

 

* 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

 

* elsewhere with amy gerstler

 

I don’t remember when exactly I learned the word “engrossed” but it quickly became associated with the act of reading. When I worked at bookstores, engrossed is what people became when they found themselves not just leafing through but reading a book. All small talk and random gazing ceased; all thoughts of good posture thrown out the window. I know I myself have sat/stood/squatted/knelt in all sorts of manners, all because a page has taken all my attention. This is when literature becomes virtual reality, when it takes you as a reader to other places. It’s not escapism, more an activity of elsewhere.

bookstore_eugene_oregonThis elsewhere territory is exactly the terrain explored in this week’s poem “Dear Reader,” by Amy Gerstler. Through a series of questions, Gerstler undergoes a meditation on the space one enters when reading. The choice to form the narrative around questions compliments the imaginative work involved in reading. The questions also take the attention off the speaker, while simultaneously and indirectly giving us much of the speaker’s character. When the speaker does finally ground the narrative in themselves, it comes as a pleasant glimpse into another life.

*

Dear Reader, – Amy Gerstler

Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever-present,
even as this missive is typed? Have you been to Easter Island? Yes?
Then I’m jealous. Do you use a tongue depressor as bookmark?
Are you reading this at an indecent hour by flashlight?
plenty of scholarly ink has been spilt praising readers like yourself,
who risk radical dismantling, or being unmasked, by rappelling
deep into sentences. Your trigger warnings could be triggered every
second, yet you forge on, mystic syllables detonating in your head,
the metal-edged smell of monsoon-downpour on hot asphalt
raising steam in your imagination. You hold out for the phrase
with which the soul resonates, am I right? Reading, you’re seized
by tingly feelings, a rustling in the brain, winds that tickle your scalp,
bubbles erupting from a blow hole at the back of your neck.
You forget the breathy woman talking softly on TV across the lobby
(via TiVo you’ve saved her for later.) Birds outside are cracking jokes
and cackling. Reader, smile to yourself, rock the cradle, kiss
everyone you wish to kiss, and please keep reading. It beats
fielding threatening phone calls for $15 an hour which is what
yours truly is meant to be doing right now, instead of speculating
on the strange and happy manifestations of, you, dear reader, you.

*

Happy reading!

José

p.s. For further “engrossment” here’s my poem “Engrossed” published at Qu Literary Magazine.

* 2015 end of year reading

Time once again for my end of year reading – which technically this year is more of a first of year reading – so however you feel fit to see it, please do. See it, that is.

I have been busy the past 3 weeks reading through the last leg of my reading list for my exams later this month. Here be the last stack(s) of books:

last leg

If you’re like me and can’t see a photo of books without scanning to see who’s in the “crowd,” here’s a short list of what’s visible:

a book on haiku poetics; Borges’ DreamtigersA Sense of Regard (essays); By Word of Mouth (William Carlos Williams’ translations); Pablo Neruda and the U.S. Culture IndustryWithout a Net by Ana Maria Shua; two books by Octavio Paz; Rigoberto Gonzalez’s Butterfly Boy (sans-book jacket, esta frio!); La Otra Mirada (microrrelato anthology); William Carlos William’s PatersonComplete Works and Other Stories by Augosto Monterroso; Takuboku Ishikawa’s Romaji Diary/Sad ToysConversations with Mexican American Writers (interviews); Sandra Cisneros’ My Wicked, Wicked Ways; Rosa Alcalá’s Undocumentaries; Pat Mora’s Aunt Carmen’s Book of Practical Saints; & flanking the stacks: William J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook; Juan Felipe Herrera’s Half of the World in Light.

***

I took a break last week to record a few readings from Everything We Think We Hear by the Ohio river after eating our annual Christmas Eve Eli’s BBQ. Below is the video and text of “Jalapeños” and “Holiday Policy.”

Looking back, I realize these two poems are a good example of the kind of range I was going for in this collection. “Jalapeños”is a kind of homage not only to the chili pepper but also to Yeats, family, and Corpus Christi, all refracted via nonlinear, lyrical momentum. “Holiday Policy,” on the other hand, is driven by a more linear narrative, but is subverted in its story within a story framework.

Enjoy!

*

Jalapeños – José Angel Araguz 

Pickled, you gleam, a smile hiding its teeth. Photo negative from Picture Day, money missing from my pockets, that smile. I can live without money; without food, I’m useless. Hunger is a tide: I walk down when it is low and see more. Over time, you’ve taught me to fashion sensibilities after what I can tolerate. When I am old and gray, and have eaten enough, I will tolerate everyone. When your darkness first cracked, did everyone go silent as you spilled out your many, tiny moons? And did he think himself a sky, the first to place your moons upon his tongue? Or was it only later, after biting into your body, thinking his own body turned water, that the first looked down and found, piled in his hand, the dunes of ellipsis you keep inside? You are commas, keep each bite separate. You are semicolons, a tip of the hat to greet the day. Shape suggestive of the J in my name. Shape suggestive, period. My aunt threatening with you if I ever cussed. Sting of I should’ve known better than to. Without you, I am useless. Corpus Christi Bay begins to glisten with you. You keep riding on the color of the waves, mocking, many and mocking. Family pickled. Family sharp with vinegar. Family broken with bites. Hunger is a tide: when it is high, I remember I cannot swim. Through skin and seed, my filthy existence resumes, after the sting.

Holiday Policy – José Angel Araguz 

My friend, who with his white beard and wide chest looks like Santa Claus, tells me of working at a liquor store and having to take polaroids of people paying with a check. He did this when he was my age, but because I am my age, my friend becomes Santa with a camera and nametag, standing as straight as steel bars on windows, watching me buy my liquor. He laughs telling the story, but the Santa whose eyes are hard on me is silent. Under white eyebrows, I see myself already doubled, following the motions of the story: white flash, pen collapsing on the counter, bottles pointing fingers from brown paper bags, fluorescence hum below the words: Holiday policy. The photo hangs like a tongue out of the camera’s mouth, my face slowly appearing from gray-white to a grainy, blurred reflection. It was enough to put cash in their pockets, as if it had been there all along, says my friend in the story, who himself dissolves into the friend in the room, grown quiet, as if he could hear himself speaking in the memory I would later have of him after he died, and disappointed that there isn’t more to him than stories like this one.

*

Happy policying!

Jose

P.S. Check out my Instagram account (joseangelaraguz) for two more shorter readings!

* sunsetting with gwendolyn brooks

A Sunset of the City – Gwendolyn Brooks

Already I am no longer looked at with lechery or love.
My daughters and sons have put me away with marbles and dolls,
Are gone from the house.
My husband and lovers are pleasant or somewhat polite
And night is night.

It is a real chill out,
The genuine thing.
I am not deceived, I do not think it is still summer
Because sun stays and birds continue to sing.

It is summer-gone that I see, it is summer-gone.
The sweet flowers indrying and dying down,
The grasses forgetting their blaze and consenting to brown.

It is a real chill out. The fall crisp comes
I am aware there is winter to heed.
There is no warm house
That is fitted with my need.

I am cold in this cold house this house
Whose washed echoes are tremulous down lost halls.
I am a woman, and dusty, standing among new affairs.
I am a woman who hurries through her prayers.

Tin intimations of a quiet core to be my
Desert and my dear relief
Come: there shall be such islanding from grief,
And small communion with the master shore.
Twang they. And I incline this ear to tin,
Consult a dual dilemma. Whether to dry
In humming pallor or to leap and die.

Somebody muffed it?? Somebody wanted to joke.

One of the things that always moves me about Gwendolyn Brooks’ work is her ability to strike emotional chords down to the level of language. This is done in the above poem subtly at the beginning, as the word “gone” is in one stanza and “summer” in the next, only to be brought together in the speaker’s meditation as the compound “summer-gone.” Having this moment build up gradually allows the reader to be in the same space as the speaker, so that when “summer-gone” is repeated in one line, it is an inevitability.

A similar things happens in the line “I am cold in this cold house this house,” where the repetition of “cold” and “house” moves them from adjective and noun into the realm of an personal lexicon for this speaker. This repetition is a kind of nuanced linguistical desire and defiance that mirrors the conceptual themes of the poem, the speaker owning the experience through statement and restatement. When, later in the same stanza, the speaker says:

I am a woman, and dusty, standing among new affairs.
I am a woman who hurries through her prayers.

I can’t help but marvel at the juxtaposition of the longer, more punctuated line against the shorter line that follows. Here, sentence structure mirrors the speaker’s state of mind, assessing and taking in the “affairs” around her in one line, and feeling a need to “hurry” in the next. This kind of attention to the line fills Brooks’ work with lessons for both the heart and mind.

***

As promised, here is a sneak peek at the cover of my forthcoming collection Everything We Think We Hear, set to be released next week on December 1st. Stay tuned for updates and ordering information. For now, check out “Don’t Look Now I Might Be Mexican” (with audio!) published in Blue Mesa Review which will appear in the collection.

I’ve also been revamping the site a bit, making changes to make things more navigable. The more notable changes include the layout of the “poems” tab, which is updated to include some more recent publications, as well as the creation of tabs for “prose” and “tanka & co.” Under “prose,” there are links to book reviews I’ve done as well as posts for the Cincinnati Review blog and writing I’ve done on specific poems for journals (like this one for the Tahoma Literary Review – On “Spiderman Hitches a Ride” – the piece itself to be released next Tuesday). Under “tanka & co.” there are links to my publications in various Japanese poetic forms including this sequence of 39 tanka in Atlas Poetica (PDF). I’ll be working on gussying up the other tabs as time goes on.

Happy sunsetting!

José