* influences, cantomundo, & the kenyon review

Just a quick post to share my contribution to Rosebud Ben-Oni’s recent guest post at the Kenyon Review blog.

Rosebud reached out to her fellow CantoMundistas – Javier Zamora, Carolina Ebeid, Yesenia Montilla, Ruben Quesada, Amy Sayre Baptista, & myself – and asked us each to write a few words on the books by Latina/os written in the 21st Century which have influenced us. Anyone familiar with this blog knows I’m a book geek, happy to dig into what I’m reading, so I relished this opportunity.

Below is my contribution to the Rosebud’s guest post. Make sure to check out the rest of the insightful contributions here.

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“Books Written in the Twenty-first Century by Latina/o Poets That Have Made Me Braver”
by José Angel Araguz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Elegies In Blue: Written early at the turn of the century, this book stands as a living elegy for both the century that’s passed and the century that continues to grow in the echo of Sáenz’s words: “Perhaps, this year, a harvest for the poor./At last. This year. A harvest for the poor.”

Rosa Alcalá, Undocumentaries: In “Speaking of the Tree,” Alcalá brings together tree mythology, her father, hurricanes, German walds, the Texas/Mexico border, Vermont, etc. – all in a poem whose meaning keeps growing like a tree in both directions, skyward and earthward. Its song and lament holds praise for the lives touched by trees, and a lament for what passes across them. In this collection, this kind of lyrical nerve and ingenuity establishes a poetics of what goes unsaid and “undocumented.”

Rigoberto González, Red-Inked Retablos: I can’t stress enough how powerful the impact of reading the speech “To the Writer, to the Activist, to the Citizen.” From the call for Latina/os to fight with intelligence and be empowered in our public presence as well as to conduct more literary criticism, stressing that we must “generate praise for those who are [our] colleagues not [our] competition,” he makes being a Chicano writer seem like the inevitable beat of my heart.

Carmen Giménez Smith, Milk and Filth: Lastly, I keep this following excerpt from “Parts of an Autobiography” written on the first page of my writing journal as a kind of reminder of what is at stake in navigating the worlds of identity and poetry:

53. The writing is not the catharsis. The decision to excavate is the catharsis. The transformation from dreadfulness to art is the catharsis, but the art is the art.

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Special thanks to Rosebud Ben-Oni and the good people at The Kenyon Review for this opportunity.

See you Friday!

Jose

* quick post: Blue Mesa Review Issue no. 30 up!

Just a quick post to announce the release of Blue Mesa Review’s Issue no. 30 which includes my poem “Don’t Look Now I Might Be Mexican” which placed 3rd in BMR’s Poetry Contest.

Check out the poem (with audio!) here.

This particular piece has been 10 years in the making. A lot of living and learning – both via books as well as cultural and emotional understanding – was undergone to get to the final draft. I am grateful to have it out in the world in such a fine forum.

Thank you to judge Carmen Gimenez Smith and the good folks at Blue Mesa Review! And congratulations to the other winners!

See you Friday!

Jose

* some news & milosz

First off, I want to announce the release of the latest issue of Foothill, which includes my poem “The Accordion Heart” here. Check out the rest of the great work in this issue here.

Next, I’d like to share the news that my poem “Don’t Look Now I Might Be Mexican” has placed 3rd in Blue Mesa Review’s 2014 Poetry Contest, judged by Carmen Gimenez Smith.

To celebrate, I went out and bought this guy:

* calavera, yo *
* calavera, yo *

As Dia de los Muertos comes around again (next week), I find myself aware of the honoring one does on a daily basis, whether directly or indirectly, of those who have passed. Even in the words one writes, the dead mix with the living and make up a whole other life. This week’s poem by Czeslaw Milosz lives in that in between space.

Secretaries – Czeslaw Milosz

I am no more than a secretary of the invisible thing
that is dictated to me and a few others.
Secretaries, mutually unknown, we walk the earth
without much comprehension. Beginning a phrase in the middle
or ending it with a comma. And how it all looks when completed
is not up to us to inquire, we won’t read it anyway.

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Happy secretaring!

Jose