* reading from The Divorce Suite!

September ended up being such a busy month that I never got around to sharing more excerpts from The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). Luckily, a recent outing to the Spring Grove Cemetery provided a nice background and inspiration for a reading. Below are the poems “Gift” and “The Accordion Heart” along with a clip of my reading them.

I chose these two poems because they are both what I term “makeshift sonnets.” There was a year (2006, I believe) when I wrote a sonnet a day; terribly rhymed creatures they were, all sorts of misguided phrasing. I then took a break from writing in the form for a few years, returning to the form after learning about William Carlos Williams and his idea of the sonnet as simply the shape of an argument.

With that framework to brace me, I wrote my way back into the fourteen line form, feeling out an argument or sense of argument. Both of these poems work out their own sense of argument, and strike their separate notes that compliment the overall project of The Divorce Suite.


Gift – José Angel Araguz

A man with a heavy German accent
handed me a book by Brigitte Reimann,
said he had bought it but had to leave
suddenly, and wanted to gift it
to the store. He walked off then.
Gift it, I kept repeating, telling
the story to anyone who’d listen.
Do you know how great that is?

The front photo was the color of smoke,
the author, young, and holding a cigarette.
It looked as if by standing there,
she colored everything around her.
When I looked it up, I found the title
translated to: Everything tastes like farewell.


The Accordion Heart – José Angel Araguz (*)

The accordion heart is hard to carry.
There are no hands for it. To play,
you go from face to face and wait
to see who wakes it up. You’ll feel
the air inside you pull and stretch.
You’ll feel awkward and loud, and yet
each movement could be music. You
can see where this could lead to something.

Sometimes the face won’t want to play.
Sometimes the face will play too long.
Either way, you’ll feel worn out.
You’ll want to punch and tear a hole,
and prove the accordion heart is useless.
There are no hands for it. You wait.


The Divorce Suite can be purchased from Red Bird Chapbooks.

Happy accordioning!


(*) “The Accordion Heart” was originally published in Foothill: a journal of poetry.

* excerpt from The Divorce Suite!

Divorce Suite pic IG

Just a quick post to follow up on the release of my latest chapbook, The Divorce Suite, published by Red Bird Chapbooks!

I’m happy to report that I received my copies. Included in one copy was this guy:

Divorce Suite bird

I was really stoked to get the first in the print one of 100!

I also wanted to follow up with an excerpt from the book. Here’s one of the short lyrics that precedes the title poem. A couple of different mythologies get interwoven into the narrative of the collection. Here, I take an indirect approach to Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

Lethe – José Angel Araguz

My face and neck dripping
with water, I stood before
the bathroom mirror in
a convenience store, hoping
to wash away the scent
of this other woman
I did not want found out,
not until I knew
just what she was to me,
what story to put her in
for the wife I’d yet to leave,
for the wife I felt I couldn’t,
not until I traced
the other’s scent around
my skin, to distinguish,
to make sure – the water
hit, the water cleared,
the water left me
the reflection of
a man smiling,
forgetting in a second
what it was I tried
to hide, and why hide it,
who would drive me to
these waters, and what man
had I been, so wrongfully,
ruinously been,
I laughed at him now,
a different man
behind the eyes
crowned by stray hair,
locked and gleaming
against my skin,
inky letters I knew
I’d have to learn to read.


Copies are still available for purchase from Red Bird Chapbooks!

Feel free to share which number you get in the comments.

See you Friday!


* new chapbook: The Divorce Suite!

Divorce Suite Cover

Just a quick post to announce the release of my latest chapbook, The Divorce Suite, published by Red Bird Chabooks! Copies can be ordered here.

This chapbook centers on a series of poems inspired by my divorce back in 2010. It takes on the idea of divorce as a fulcrum into change, the narrative itself playing out in various forms: from makeshift sonnets, tanka sequences, and the lyric/prose hybrid of the title poem, to the mutated sestina that closes the book, divorce is seen as both event and momentum.

These ideas are embodied in the following lines from Paterson by William Carlos Williams which serve as an epigraph for the chapbook:

Divorce is
the sign of knowledge in our time,
divorce! divorce!

                         with the roar of the river
forever in our ears…

The particular river that runs through this chapbook is the Willamette, as much of the telenovela that was my first marriage played out in Eugene, Oregon.

One of the reasons I’m especially excited about this project is that it brings together a specific sequence of poems around this subject. While the title poem and a small selection of other poems from this chapbook will be featured in my next collection, Small Fires (due out in 2017), this chapbook presents its own particular reading experience. The difference is similar to having a radio edit versus hearing the full version of a song.

Special thanks to Eric Hove & Sarah Hayes for being great to work with as well as to everyone at Red Bird Chapbooks! RBC’s chapbooks are hand-crafted art objects, making this publication all the more special.

Red Bird Chapbooks is planning a print run of 100 copies, so please hurry and snag a copy!

Happy Red Birding!


* using ‘like’ and liking it

(a note on motion)

The heart is a thing in motion,

like the stars, like the ocean.



In early 2010, I filed for divorce.  I had never thought I would get married, much less that if I did that it might not work out.  Owning up to a relationship not working hurts no matter what side you are on. I spent the first month of the process reeling in late nights, beer, coffee, and words.

Two nights in particular stick out to me.  I got home one night and read the first of a number of nasty emails from my ex (she had every right).  The turn, though, from confidant to stranger hit hard.  Her words haunted me.  I was stuck between beating myself up and needing to move on.

I spent that night playing around with different phrasings of the above lines.  The original was (embarrassingly enough) something like: the stars are always in motion, the heart with them.  When I came back to the words the next day, I cut much of the free write out and found myself, of all things, rhyming.  At a time in my life when few things were harmonious, here were these two lines wanting to chime.


What I see in these lines is a meeting of the personal with an admission of insignificance.  However vast the heart inside me felt at the time, the stars and ocean were always vaster.

Another thing I see in these lines is the affirmation of a lesson learned: For years I had carried with me something Galway Kinnell had said about simile, how the word ‘like’ pointed to where imagination cut off from reality.  He said it in the context of avoiding simile.  The lesson for me with these lines is that there is a time and place for ‘like’.  In these lines, it needs to be ‘like’ because while, yes, all three things – heart, stars, ocean – are perpetually moving, of the three things listed, the heart is the one thing that eventually ceases.

Mortality as played out in word choice.  Whoa.

Seriously, this distinction, this cut between imagination and reality, lifted the lines from the mire of naivete that rhyming couplets evoke and made them self-aware of that naivete, made them realistic as well as hopeful.