* visiting Jeju w/ daniel paul marshall

photo by Joey Rositano

This week’s post features a poem by Daniel Paul Marshall. Marshall writes about the Haenyeo, female divers from the Korean province of Jeju. The Hangul for the word, (해녀)roughly translates to sea women, and serves as the title for this poem.

When I informed Marshall I planned on featuring this particular poem, he was kind enough to share the following:

The tradition of the Haenyo, the lady divers of Jeju, sometimes mythologized as the mermaids of Jeju, dates back some 1500 years.Their tools, other than their updated wet suits, have not changed. They dive as a group, for safety & socializing. They dive in all weather, all seasons. Their strength & endurance to the elements is astonishing.Their shamanic traditions are dwindling from what i gather, their mean ages is 70 odd & the younger generation is not being trained in this ancient custom. 

This poem finds them after a dive. They were changing in a public toilet near Sanbangsan & my wife & her friend were waiting for them to finish to see if they could purchase some of their catch. Eating sashimi this fresh, straight from the Haenyo is the best & rarest means of eating it. The divers make a lot of money selling this way, they charge $40 for a belly full.

Along with this insight into the culture and poem, Marshall connected me with the work of Joey Rositano whose book Spirits: The Story of Jeju Island’s Shamanistic Shrines helps “recover the tradition of Jeju shamanism, which he believes stands at the center of Jeju identity itself.” The two photographs in this post are from Rositano’s project. His work raises awareness about their dwindling culture due to over development.

Reading the poem below, I am stunned by the freshness of the language. A line such as chattering like clam maracas, arms brachiate blustered replies is vivid both in terms of sounds but also in its tone. Respect and awe are evoked here indirectly. Through moves of lyrical richness, Marshall’s poem takes us down into the details of this world.

photo by Joey Rositano

해녀 – Daniel Paul Marshall

you can see them in shoals by drainage puddles after a hunt,
de-snorkeled & out their trademark wetsuits & flippers
they no longer resemble baby seals.
in their mammalian clobber : nylon padded paisley coats & neckerchief.
the tourists’ timidity quashed, they peddle more raw creatures of the sea.

any place with an outdoor water source they squat,
peeling onions & garlic, slicing the ends off & scrubbing them clean.
all they hunted in red or blue plastic buckets
: abalone, sea snail, mussels & clams;
their rudimentary cells throbbing in the cold salt water.

chattering like clam maracas, arms brachiate blustered replies.
i see tourists with questions halted at the portico of their mouths;
eager to know how mermaids feel whilst rummaging coral nooks
– i know how they’d reply
: why talk romance without even a pocket of oxygen.


Happy diving!



To find out more about Daniel Paul Marshall’s work check out his site.

To find out more about Joey Rositano’s photography & documentorial work on behalf of the history, language, and identity of the people of Jeju, check out his site as well.

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


* new work at Kettle Blue Review!

Just a quick note to announce the release of the latest issue of Kettle Blue Review!

In this issue, you’ll find two poems from my “Nada Poems” series: “Nada on the Swing” & “Nada’s Vanity.”

Happy to be part of a great issue! Check out the stellar work, including poems by Gail Goepfert, Christine Pacyk, and Mercedes Lawry here.

Special thanks to Lana Rakhman & everyone at KBR!

See you Friday!


* constellating with danielle cadena deulen

ouremotions_bThis week I’m sharing a poem from Danielle Cadena Deulen’s book Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us which I reviewed earlier this week.

In my review I focused on how the poems in the collection have a particular way of approaching the self as a moment of awareness and interpolation. This week’s poem, “Constellation,” does this work via the immediacy of a speaker engaged in an address of memory and revelation. By weaving the narrative of a specific memory with the narratives the speaker carries about their friend, the poem creates its own constellation of vivid recollection.

What holds these materials together is the box-like conceptual form, which begins with the first words of the poem: I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy. From the darkness behind the speaker’s eyes arises the memory of the friend with an immediacy and emotional charge that evokes the book’s title; the reader is “carried” into the memories of the speaker. Yet, with the poem’s final image, which compares the night sky to a box, we are once again in darkness, captivated by the voice of the friend, who gets in the last fateful word.

Constellation – Danielle Cadena Deulen

I close my eyes and it’s you with the boy
in the rain, zipping up his pants in the green,
hulking shrubs. You, marching out

like a one-girl parade, your face so white,
red-cheeked-cold and smiling like you do when
you’ve got away with something,

while I stand there as speechless as a crushed
bottle in the lot behind the 7-Eleven with
the other boy, wating for you to return

and not kissing him because I’ve never been
kissed by anyone but you and he’s not
prety. He’s smoked four Marlboros, shamed

them all beneath a rubber sole and picked at
the pimples on his chin, asking stupid
questions like So, do you like movies? And,

Do you think they’re doing it now? As if the
thought of you unbuttoning his dirty jeans and
kneeling down in the gravel at the roots

of the bush might inspire me to prostrate
myself before him, too. You’re fast.
You’re so fast that almost no one can see you,

that flash across your face when your boy
doesn’t stumble out declaring his love, when
we don’t applaud. No one but me can see

that you think he’s left you already–like your
father, your mother’s boyfriend, the last boy
you kissed and the boy before him. You’ll quit

school before you get through them all.
Sixteen and already a gallery of lovers: Boy
with Car, Boy with Tattoo, Boy with Crystal

the boy who will leave money on your dresser
before he strides out your door, your face full
of sores, your teeth knocked out. He appears

behind you, encircles your waists, sucks on your
neck just to leave a mark. When we’re lying,
legs tangled together later than night,

I’ll touch the indefinite edges of his love-
bruise, a darkness surfacing from within your
pale skin. Of the boy, you’ll say, He says

he thinks I’m pretty, and the stars, far up
beyond a torn screen of clouds, They’re like
diamonds in a box that no one opens.


* insert crickets sound here *

Happy constellating!



P.S. Check out the giveaway below!

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


* new review up at The Volta Blog!

ouremotions_bJust a quick post to announce my latest book review up at The Volta Blog!

This time around I spend time with Danielle Cadena Deulen’s second collection, Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us (Barrow Street Press).

This review will be my last for The Volta Blog as they are closing shop. I learned a lot and had fun supporting some great books.

Reviewing for them made me brave enough to do my own microreviews & interviews for this blog (see: “Categories”).

Special thanks to Sally Whittier McCallum and Housten Donham for being great to work with.

See you Friday!


P.S. Also: check out the details of the new giveaway below!

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


* reading with wayne miller

This week, I thought I’d share a poem from Wayne Miller’s latest collection, Post- (Milkweed Editions), which I wrote about earlier this week for the Cincinnati Review blog.

In my review of the book, I spoke about poems that engaged with the idea of inheritance in relation to the nature of language itself. This week’s poem, “Inside the Book,” explores such territory.

In this poem, the speaker meditates on their daughter’s efforts at reading “these trenches of script.” The lyric quickly develops a sense of the physicality of reading; when the daughter is described as wanting “to lift that world / into her own,” the reading act is being understood as a visceral experience. The effort is narrated in physical terms, which imbues the daughter narrative with a great deal of determination.

This meeting of “worlds” culminates in an ending that takes the poem, poet, and reader to a metaphysical level, indirectly pointing out the ways in which language and reading act as hinges between us.



Inside the Book – Wayne Miller

For my daughter: these images,
these trenches of script. She keeps
reaching to pull them
from the page, as if the book
were an opened cabinet;

every time, the page
blocks her hand. They’re right
there –
those pictures
vivid as stained glass,
those tiny, inscrutable knots.

They hang in that space
where a world was built
in fits and erasures – she wants
to lift that world
into her own.

Meanwhile, this world
floods her thoughts,
her voice; it fills
the windows, the streets
she moves through;

it reaches into her
as the air reaches into her lungs.
Then, before we know it,
here she is with us
inside the book.


Happying booking!


* 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.

* two poems at The Boiler Journal!

fall16_boiler1Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of The Boiler Journal which features two poems from a manuscript-in-progress. Read them here.

“Forging” and “The Broken Escalator at the Train Platform” both come from my years living in New Jersey/New York when I would commute to work and grad school.

This issue also features work by fellow UC poet Emily Rose Cole as well as stellar work by Leslie Marie Aguilar and Monica Lewis among others.

Check out the rest of the issue here.

Special thanks to Sebastian Hasani Paramo & everyone at the journal for including my work in such a solid issue!

See you Friday!


* autumning with jane hirshfield

Oyes en medio del otoño
detonaciones amarillas?

(In the middle of autumn
do you hear yellow explosions?)

— Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions


Neruda’s lines above evoke a pleasing moment of synesthesia, blurring the sight of yellow leaves with the sound of explosions. As the season changes, I can’t help but see such blurred moments more and more in life.

This week’s poem, “The Heat of Autumn” by Jane Hirshfield, works its materials on a similar level as Neruda’s question above. Housed under the concept of “heat,” the narrative of the poem draws its details together in a way that imbues meaning, connecting things in an active way.

The third line, for example, refers to the “apples” of one season becoming the “cider” of another. In doing so,  the first of the poem’s many little dramas is enacted. By the end, enough details and imbued meanings have piled upon each other (like leaves), that the “heat” of the title becomes a sensation on both a physical and emotional level.


The Heat of Autumn – Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

(from Hirshfield’s collection After, 2006)


Happy autumning!


* arguing & anniversarying


The photo above is of my work desk at the Cincinnati Review office. The moon painting featured here was one of the first my wife worked on during our time living in Cincinnati. Her artwork inspires me, which is one of the reasons why it is featured on the covers of four of my chapbooks as well as on the cover of Everything We Think We Hear. Having an artist in the family means I get to come home to paintings mid-process on her desk. When this happens, the idea of “work-in-progress” becomes a physical metaphor in our living room. This definitely influences my thoughts as I work at my own desk.

I share this photo because I wanted to make the most of the fact that my wedding anniversary falls on a Friday this year. This week’s poem was also chosen in this spirit. Below is my poem “Arguing for the Stars,” which was originally published in Kansas City Voices in 2015.

We never really settled on a solid reason why we chose to get married right around the beginning of autumn. Could be all the stirring elements and changing weather. This poem, I like to think, has some of that as well.


Arguing for the Stars – José Angel Araguz

for ani

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead
there are those who believed the night sky
to be an iron plate, stars torches
hung over the world,

and those who believed the night to be
a goddess adorned in stars. Between
torches and jewelry believers
argued, side by side,

their voices dying down as the dark
grew, leaving only silence and those
points of light above them holding still.
There are nights you point

out a star, and without looking I
say it is a plane, a satellite,
something other than what you say. Such
is my disbelief,

not in stars, but in being able
to see anything clearly from here.
You argue for your stars, and your words
help me. The night sky

fills again with what
you would have me see.


Happy stars-ing!