Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who entered the Goodreads giveaway. Out of 500 plus entries (each time I think of this number = Wow! *gasp*), 10 were chosen by Goodreads to received signed copies of my chapbook, Reasons (not) to Dance (FutureCycle Press). Those copies should be out shortly. Everyone be on the look out next month for another giveaway, this time of my first full book of poems, Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press).
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
This quote by Rilke serves as an epigraph at the beginning of Colette Jonopulos’s chapbook, Between. Reading through the poems in this chapbook, I was moved how each reflected a bit of what Rilke’s words point to, how distance can be used to see something and/or someone clearer.
I share the title poem below as an example not only of the above theme but also of a short lyric able to evoke and engage via images and phrasing. While the address to a “you” creates the air of intimacy, the meditation on the image of bird eggs evokes Rilke’s “infinite distances.” From this angle, a couple is always a “you” and an “I” (you/I), and their relationship “the fragile membrane between” them.
The ending on “hatchlings” equates unspoken words to unborn birds, a pairing that, beyond rhyme, hits home for the life waiting in both words and birds to come.
Between – Colette Jonopulos
To give you a handful of
birds still in their shells, blue
shells and slate grey, thick
shells of protection, like the
ones we’ve built up with our
What was easy has
become the gracious and
cold considered other,
boundaries set; we are
not the content or container,
but the fragile membrane
As the plane lands, as I
walk into still another
strange city, I’ve saved
the shells unbroken,
inside are words I
have not said,
slick and breathless
Just a quick post to officially announce that my second full length collection of poetry, Small Fires, has just been accepted for publication in 2017 from FutureCycle Press. This collection will feature the poems “Joe” and “El Rio” among others.
FutureCycle are also the same good people who published my prose poem/flash fiction chapbook,Reasons (not) to Dance. I’m excited to be working with them again. Stay tuned for further news come 2017.
To celebrate the Small Fires news, I thought I’d share my contribution to the Journeys into Tanka project that’s going on via the Tanka Society of America Facebook page. Poets were asked to share a tanka as well as some words on their journey into the form, what it means for them and how. Readers are welcome to respond in the comments with their own tanka and/or tanka-related prose.
Special thanks to Marilyn Hazelton, TSA president and editor of red lights, for the invitation to contribute!
Here’s what poet Naomi Shihab Nye was kind enough to say about The Wall:
“Jose Angel Araguz is a stunning writer. His deep listening – despite walls and silences among them – and his willingness to carry voices of longing and connection even when facts of the world proclaim endless disconnection – help make him a poet of great essential honor and hope. Please welcome him.”
Special thanks to Colette and JoAn at Tiger’s Eye Press for their continued support and belief in the project!
If you were a scientist, if you were an explorer who had been to the moon. . . What you said would have the force of that accumulated background of information; and any mumbles, mistakes, dithering, could be forgiven . . . But a poet – whatever you are saying, and however you are saying it, the only authority you have builds from the immediate performance, or it does not build. The moon you are describing is the one you are creating. From the very beginning of your utterance you are creating your own authority. (William Stafford)
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of talking at Foy H. Moody High School (Go Trojans!), the high school I graduated from in Corpus Christi, Texas. My talk was structured around the above quote from William Stafford and the idea of writing as performance. Along with reading poems about the moon, I provided students with index cards where they could try their hand at describing/creating the moon. Here’s one that a student, Ashley, was kind enough to allow me to share here:
It makes me want to swallow my tears, it makes me believe I can forget my fears. It gives me hope.
One of the things that moves me about this young poet’s lyric is how it reaches out to a similar sentiment as the Izumi Shikibu tanka I shared last week. Both lyrics set the solitary figure of the moon against the solitude of the self and work out of that tension a feeling of hope. Truly inspiring!
As part of my visit, I donated copies of Corpus Christi Octaves, Reasons (not) to Dance, and Everything We Think We Hearto the library. As I made my way through readings from Reasons and Everything, I found the moon popping up over and over again in the poems, serendipitously chiming along with the framework of my talk. It was one of those happy accidents that happen while teaching that, in a way, show your intuition paying off.
When a student asked why I thought the moon came up in the poems so much, I surprised myself again by sharing that it might have something to do with having shared a room as a child with my mother. She would work late nights, and often I would stay awake in bed staring out the window. And most nights the moon was there; when not, then the stars.
Looking back on this moment, I can’t help thinking about the following poem by Jack Gilbert, where he gives his own moon-reasoning:
Secrets of Poetry – Jack Gilbert
People complain about too many moons in my poetry.
Even my friends ask why I keep putting in the moon.
And I wish I had an answer like when Archie Moore
was asked by a reporter in the dressing room
after the fight, “Why did you keep looking in
his eyes, Archie? The whole fight you were
looking in his eyes.” And old Archie Moore said,
“Because the eyes are the windows to the soul, man.”
Another “wish I could back and share” thought: It completely slipped my mind that in the Octaves I have the following poem where I riff and hold conversation with the Stafford quote. I share it here in the spirit of belatedness:
The moon you are describing is the one you are creating
– William Stafford
How many moons between us, friend?
I meet you under circumstances
bad and good: bad, because you’re not here,
good, because I get to listen
and hear the moon you’d have me see.
Moon of my own efforts: where to start?
My questions? What are questions? Tonight,
the moon is in the shape of one.
Special thanks to Simon Rios and Melissa Yanez of Moody for helping set up the talks! Thanks also to Ashley, Marcos, and all the other students who participated in the talk about the moon!
Here, I open up about The Book of Flight as well as my other chapbooks: The Wall, Naos, Corpus Christi Octaves, & Reasons (not) to Dance.
Also, check out this clip of me reading “Hangman Ode” earlier today at Del Mar College. Looking forward to reading as the featured poet tonight at their open mic (7pm, Del Mar College White Library, Room 514).
Thanks to everyone who made it through the rain to see the reading!
From the first words on, a poem begins to perform itself, establishing a logic and vision as you read. Like someone you bump into on the street, a poem wants you to go with whatever kind of interaction is happening at that moment. Sometimes it’s small talk; sometimes it’s carrying furniture out to a car and could you get that end, thanks! However it plays out, a poem wants a reader to go with it, the payoff being that you end up somewhere different than you were.
This week’s poem, “The Hand” by fellow CantoMundo poet Rodney Gomez, asks the reader to go with a story about a severed hand and its fabulistic travels. Each turn in the hand’s narrative charges the overall meaning further. From sugar cane fields to a highway of hands, the hand builds as a symbol of work and want.
This poem also made me think of the Yasunari Kawabata story “One Arm” from House of Sleeping Beauties. In that story, a young woman removes an arm and gives it to her lover to take care of for the night. This removing of self only to return to the self stranger is an act undergone repeatedly in daily life as we live in varying roles at work, at home, with others in general. Art has a way of slowing down the process of living, so that it’s understood for the life it consists of.
The Hand – Rodney Gomez
Midnight some time ago, I severed my hand & let it loose in the sugar cane fields outside my home. The next morning, being so drenched with want, I remembered how much a good hand is worth & went to find it. It was panting at a nearby well, next to a neat row of baskets filled with cane. Thinking it would easily reattach, I pressed it against my wrist – but strangely the hand didn’t fit. It scuttled away & I followed, arriving at a city of cardboard in the brush where a highway of hands flowed, swollen & tired. My true hand was there, struggling to pull a time clock into a tattered shoebox. Under the lid was a bleeding pinpoint – glowing hot, too bright for my eyes – accepting into itself all our loveless works.
I also want to share news of some upcoming readings next month in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. At each of these, I will be reading from Everything We Think We Hear as well as Reasons (not) to Dance and other chapbooks:
*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Reading & Book Signing 11am
*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Open Mic feature
*)Thursday, March 10th 2016 Texas A&M University Corpus Christi: Opening Reader for Laurie Ann Guerrero 7pm
I’ll also be spending the afternoon doing a talk/reading at Foy H. Moody High School the Friday of that week.
In celebration of the release of my digital chapbook, The Book of Flight (Essay Press), this week’s Influence will be focused on work that I feel is in spirit with the project.
First up is Sei Shonagon, who I wrote about in October. I had reason to return to her lists in The Pillow Book recently, and continue to marvel at the surprise-charged prose:
16. Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster
Sparrows feeding their young. To pass a place where babies are playing. To sleep in a room where some incense has been burnt. To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.
It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of raindrops, which the wind blows against the shutters.
The cumulative effect of sensory details is at turns charming and striking. It becomes a matter of where the writer leaves you: When the “wind blows against the shutters” it takes one’s breath as well as the narrative away.
Another writer whose work has meant more and more to me in the past few months is Yahia Lababidi. Here’s a sample from his collection, Signposts to Elsewhere: aphorisms & other tailored thoughts:
The personal made universal is art’s truth.
Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.
The irony of the writer is that of a private person in a public profession.
Venom poisons most the people who carry it.
What I see as the “tailoring” of the aphorisms and thoughts in this collection is something akin to a fingerprint. Throughout, Lababidi does a great job of tempering the didactic and distant nature of the aphorism with a bit of down to earth humor and wisdom.
Here’s another sample:
Dreams: what get us through the night, and oftentimes the day.
Tattoo: graffiti on a masterpiece.
Disgust can be constructive as a spark igniting transformation.
It is not lovers who compose poetry, but Love.
This last line especially speaks to me about the nature of what it means to be a writer, that there is a purpose beyond ink on page at practice through us.
“In the book of flight, plastic bags are brought in to do the work of clouds.
Dead leaves rest in the margins.
Grass clippings, eyelashes, fingernails: errata in the book of flight.”
(José Angel Araguz from The Book of Flight)
Happy to announce the release of my latest online chapbook The Book of Flight published by Essay Press! Read it free online or download the chap in PDF here.
The Book of Flight is one of twelve winners in Essay Press’s first Digital Chapbook Contest. For this contest, Essay Press asked 12 recent Essay authors each to select and introduce a manuscript extending and/or challenging the formal possibilities of prose. I am honored to have my manuscript selected and eloquently introduced by the innovative author Misha Pam Dick.
Here is a brief description of the chapbook:
“José Angel Araguz’s The Book of Flight is a chapbook of aphoristic, fragmentary writings in the style of Ramon Gomez de la Serna’s greguerías and Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions. Described by Misha Pam Dick as “a four-part microtreatise-poem. Like aphorisms that don’t preen, or fragments that don’t mourn,” The Book of Flight lives somewhere between the insight of haiku, the personal heat of tanka, and the everyday tone of a poet’s notebook.”
This project is especially meaningful to me as it represents the culmination of many of the ideas and insights I have followed and exercised throughout various notebooks and other projects over the past ten years. “Clock Ode” in Reasons (not) to Dance as well as “Zoot Suit Riot” and “Moth Season” in Everything We Think We Hear are good examples of precursors to the sensibility that is in full force in this project.
Please read and share this free chapbook and stay tuned for the other eleven selections from Essay Press!
Thanks to Andy Fitch, Maria Anderson, and Aimee Harrison for all the hard work in putting together the chapbook. Thanks toAndrea Schreiber for the cover art and Courtney Mandryk for the cover design. And an extra special thanks to Misha Pam Dick for selecting the manuscript and writing the introduction!