new essay published: excerpt

Far-Villages_Final_CMYK-768x1187This week I’m proud to share an excerpt from my essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems” which was recently included in the anthology Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets edited by Abayomi Animashaun and published by Black Lawrence Press.

This essay engages with the concept of disidentification as established by José Esteban Muñoz in his book Disidentifications: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and uses it as a fulcrum into a meditation on my own struggles at the intersection of identity and creative life. As a writer of color, my experience has been that politics found me first; that is, that I don’t have the privilege to decide to “not get political” as it’s said. As evident from early memories of being a child and getting glared at, along with my family, while at the grocery store, I was politicized long before I knew the words that defined me in the eyes of society.

Later, I sat in political science classes and learned ideas like “living below the poverty line” and “marginalization,” words that struck me with shame as well as insight, and was left unable to theorize about such things as they were words that described who I was, where I came from. Learning, in so many ways, has been a process of piecing myself together in the face of such formative disruptions of self. The learning that I engage with in creating poetry and lyric essays is a similar piecing together.

My essay is broken up into a first half, which meditates in prose about these and similar ideas. The second half goes through a series of poems from my first two collections and engages with a dialogue after each exploring what’s in the poem and what’s left out. I offer below the closing poem and prose section. The poem “A Poco” is new and is not in any of my books. Yet, the conversation on and off the page that I experience with it grapples with the same urgent self-interrogation as the rest of the essay. I share it here now as a way to celebrate this new anthology, but also to say thank you to those of you–past, present, and future–who come here and read this blog. 

Special thanks to Abayomi Animashaun for including this essay in this landmark anthology and to Black Lawrence Press for providing a home for this communal converation! A special thanks and shout-out to poets Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Christina Olivares, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, and Lupe Mendez with whom I participated in the panel Beyond the Blueprint: a poetry reading and panel discussion on the reconstructed self at the 2017 Thinking Its Presence conference: The Ephemeral Archive hosted at the University of Arizona. It was there that I first read a draft of this essay.

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(excerpt from essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems”)

José Angel Araguz

A Poco

for Ramon

This piece of paper is work? A poco?
I won’t believe that, ni un poco.

It’s work for me with this good eye,
one bad eye from broke glass, pero a poco

tu with two don’t struggle here?
And with books and school? A poco

you all talk about it, in class, I mean,
about what it means? That’s work. A poco,

I’m not here, you don’t write about me,
right? My bad eye? I bet you do. A poco,

no? You have nothing else? You have nothing else.
Don’t say it looks like a bruise gone white. A poco,

no? But don’t say it. Say it’s a marble, or
like my granddaughter says: A poco,

 you can’t see out of that fish eye, abuelo?
Can you see me? Nope. Ni un poco.

What’s in the poem: How my fascination with ghazals and my fascination with South Texas Spanglish work together. How my co-worker Ramon had a clouded eye.

What’s left out: How Ramon’s clouded eye wasn’t glass because taking it out would have caused more overall damage. How Ramon’s thumbs were permanently purple from hammering and missing and hitting his hand. How when we worked side by side at Billy Pugh co. making equipment for oil rigs I felt both honored and intimidated. How the more I wrote into this poem the more I left Ramon’s voice behind. How the biggest breakthrough in writing the poem was having this meta-Ramon ask the question “You have nothing else?” then declare flat out “You have nothing else.” How this meta-Ramon is really me still guilty years later worried I don’t do enough on the page or in my life to honor the people who have helped me survive. How this species of interrogation is never done with, because it is how I honor those who have helped me survive.

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Happy disidentifying!

José

new essay at Medium!

Just a quick post to share that my short essay, “The Speaking Up Mantra,” was recently published at Medium! Read it here.

This essay came about as part of a series of activities Linfield College put together to  welcome new students to campus and help them as they transition into college culture. I was asked to think of advice that would help new students, especially first generation students as they enter and try to navigate the world of the college classroom. As a first generation faculty, I find this subject fruitful and important. Even now, I still find it hard to speak up and find myself putting some of my own advice to use.

Special thanks to Travis McGuire, Director of Social Media for Linfield College, for the invite to write and share some of the insights gained throughout my first gen student and teaching experience!

— José

new work up at Hinchas de Poesía & Blood Moon Blog!

Just a quick post to share that my poem in Spanish “Thank You for Not Smoking (una traducción práctica)” is included in the latest issue of Hinchas de Poesía! This poem is part of a series of “practical translations” of signs from English into mine own Spanish interpretation.

This issue also includes work by Mario Alejandra Ariza, Dimitri Reyes, and Norma E. Cantú along with other fine writers. Check it out!

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Also, my short essay “Scramble and Sensitivity: Notes on a Reading Life” is up at Blood Moon Blog: Latinx Writing!

In it, I go into some of my earliest memories of reading and what it was like to run into a poetry book for the first time.

Thank you to Monique Quintana for the invitation to reflect and dig into these memories!

José

* new essay up at Art + Money!

keroseneJust a quick post to announce the publication of my essay “Snapshots From a Year Without Electricity” in Art + Money!

Art + Money is a free monthly newsletter in which writers and artists talk about how money shapes their lives. (No spam. Just crazy-great original essays.) Sign up here: http://tinyletter.com/catbaab/

“Snapshots From a Life Without Electricity” moves in small “snapshot” paragraphs through some of the pivotal moments of the year I lived in my friend Dennis’ house, sans electricity but with plenty of words to keep us going.*

Here’s an excerpt from my essay:

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In this snapshot you recognize the field mouse as you last saw him. Your friend laughs at you whenever you come to him agitated after hearing the mouse scurry through the unused kitchen. There’s nothing for him there. Let him look around. After months of the mouse eating through books, shelves covered in what could be mistaken for confetti, the aftermath of words being ripped and ground until they weigh thick in ink and pulp inside his belly, you stand frozen here, as if mirroring the mouse. Anyone else looking in would think each still figure waited for the other to begin explaining everything; anyone else would wonder who in this snapshot is unable to move on.

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Art + Money is published by my longtime friend and fellow writer Catherine Baab-Muguira. My essay has the honor of being the second installment.

Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to check out the rest!

See you Friday!

José

*(This friendship is also the subject of one of the sequences of my chapbook Corpus Christi Octaves).

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

* borges: a lyrical alignment

This past week, I found myself reading the essay “Verbiage for Poems” by Jorge Luis Borges (found in On Writing, Penguin Classics), and coming across a marvelous paragraph – emphasis on the ‘marvel,’ something of strange weather patterns moving across the sky in the middle of an ordinary afternoon about this paragraph.

In my enthusiasm, I found myself reading the words aloud to myself as I would a poem, which naturally led to my writing them out in my notebook. I pushed my fascination further by rewriting the prose into lines (loose iambics).

I present the fruits of my efforts below, calling it a lyrical alignment, something of what chiropractors do to backs – but hopefully less painful 🙂

There is a tradition of this kind of thing, a branch of ‘found’ poetry (Jose Garcia Villa immediately comes to mind as an early ‘aligner’). I enjoy reworking prose in this manner both for the way it keeps my ear sharp as well as for how it allows me to sink into the diction and phrasing of a writer.

I hope to share more of these as they come up in my reading and note-taking. For now, enjoy how Borges redefines the way you look at nouns.

* a rainbowhurricanehailstorm of a writer *
* a rainbowhurricanehailstorm of a writer *

“The world of appearances…” – Jorge Luis Borges

The world of appearances is a jumble
of shifting perceptions. The vision of a rustic
sky, that persistent aroma sweeping the fields,
the bitter taste of tobacco burning one’s
throat, the long wind lashing the road,
the submissive rectitude of the cane
around which we wrap our fingers, all fit together
in our consciousness, almost all at once.
Language is an efficient ordering of the world’s
enigmatic abundance. Or, in other words,
we invent nouns to fit reality.
We touch a sphere, see a small heap
of dawn-colored light, our mouths enjoy
a tingling sensation, and we lie to ourselves
that those three disparate things are only
one thing called an orange. The moon itself
is a fiction. Outside of astronomical
conventions, which should not concern us here,
there is no similarity whatsoever
between the yellow sphere now rising clearly
over the wall of the Recoleta cemetery
and the pink slice I saw in the sky above
the Plaza de Mayo many nights ago.
All nouns are abbreviations. Instead of saying
cold, sharp, burning, unbreakable,
shining, pointy, we utter “dagger”; for
the receding of the sun and oncoming darkness,
we say “twilight.”

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Happy twilighting!

Jose

p.s. Please check out my poem “De Soto National Memorial Park” in the latest issue of the Rappahannock Review here.