revisiting spiderman

1605831838_351eab12ed_bAs the release date of my next poetry collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press), approaches, I want to quickly revisit one of the key poems from my book Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press).

Below is the piece “Spiderman Hitches a Ride” along with a short essay about the origins of the piece. The short essay was originally written for the Tahoma Literary Review blog when this piece was published in issue 5.

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Spiderman Hitches a Ride – José Angel Araguz

My mother compares me to Spiderman, and for a second I like it.

I mean, it’s what I’ve always wanted: to be viewed in the glory of courage and costume; to be super tough and just, a city like a little brother needing me to battle bullies and take back lunch money, a villain defining me by default as a hero, his crooked eyebrows and overheated plans carnival mirror to my calm and valiant stance; to push out of paper bag clothes; to leave my shoes untied, their mouths open in awe; to slip on the muscles and dreams of tomorrow’s headlines; to leave a woman breathless, with a single kiss amazed, her heart pounding at the thought of being in love with a man – in tights – who leaves her without a name or number with which to follow him into the fire.

He is like me, my mother says, because he too wants to do good things for people, but he gets beat up, can’t find a job and his girl ends up dating someone else. He saves people’s lives but is always flaco y vago, vagabond skinny with luck and life.

Is this what it meant for her when at seventeen I boarded a plane and soared out of this city, where if she couldn’t see into my head she could at least put a roof over it. Those years I disappeared into the phone, and was ok in Santa Fe, ok in San Diego, ok in New York but still short and small in words.

M’ijo, no te preocupes, don’t worry. She smiles, then slips off her seatbelt to reach over and wrap an arm around my neck, the other dropping a twenty into my lap. The green paper is wrinkled in waves that shudder and blur as I blink fast, trying once again to be heroic.

*

On “Spiderman Hitches a Ride”
originally published in Tahoma Literary Review issue 5)

This piece is part of my collection, Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press), whose pieces deal primarily with what it meant for me to grow up in and out of South Texas.

The first draft of “Spiderman” was written during the summer of 2004 during which I lived in a house that had no electricity. The house belonged to a dear friend of mine who offered me a place to stay when he heard I was coming back to my hometown, Corpus Christi. “There’s no electricity,” he warned, “but you’ll have plenty of room to sit and write.” Having no job prospects that summer, I happily took him up on it.

Without a job, there was plenty of time to write as well. I spent most days that summer selling my personal library one sad stack at a time at a used bookstore and using the few dollars raised from that to buy coffee. I would take over a table at a café and write and write and write. At night, I would make my way over to the dollar movies and watch just about anything just to be in the air conditioned theater. Corpus Christi summers stay in the high 90s, low 100s, on average, with the nights carrying the heat via humidity.

That summer, I watched a lot of bad movies, keeping my notebook open on my lap and my pen to paper. I blame that summer for the fondness that remains for the train wreck of a movie, Troy, lines from which still come to me when thinking about the Iliad. Similarly, I must’ve watched Spiderman 2 close to a hundred times. Writing in the dark of the theater felt like dreaming; the various narratives and worlds around me began to blur. Peter Parker’s bumbling yet charming bad luck never felt too far off from my own. And while I may never have saved a city from destruction, only myself (barely), you never saw Peter open a letter from Sallie Mae and keep down his lunch.

Going back and forth in (anti)heroic comparisons at night kept me writing at a time when each day I woke to the reality of being young, college-educated, and broke. Broken, too, my ego, my sense of self and of the future. Only poetry braced me; and only family buoyed me.

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See you Friday!

José

poems, news, & audio!

Just a quick post to share that my poem “Of Breaking” can be read and heard on Toe Good Poetry’s site!

This poem is featured in my upcoming second collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press), which I am happy to share has a release date of May 22nd. I’m really looking forward to its release.

I am also happy to share that the audio from my reading with Rochelle Hurt and Linwood Rumney in November at the University of Cincinnati’s Elliston Room is available to be listened to. In these tracks, you can hear me read from Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press), Reasons (not) to Dance (FutureCycle Press), and  The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks).

Check it out the reading here!

See you Friday!

José

* haiku & new monopoem giveaway!

I lay down
all the heavy packages —
autumn moon.

Patricia Donegan

*

reaching the top
of the mountain
losing the mountain

Michael Fessler

*

losing its name
a river
enters the sea

John Sandbach

*

say no words
time is collapsing
in the woods

Sonia Sanchez

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The above haiku are drawn from Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, an anthology I spent time with this week as I wrapped up work at the CR for the semester. The editors provide a great sense of the many paths haiku has been taken on in the English language. I like returning to short lyric forms as seasons change. Helps me pay attention to the details.

Before I share more excerpts from this great anthology, I wanted to thank everyone who entered the Goodreads giveaway for Everything We Think We Hear! Winners have been chosen and will have books sent their way next week. The ten winners will also be receiving copies of the latest Mosca Dragón, my monopoem series. This issue features another poem from my forthcoming collection Small Fires.

2016-12-08-10-06-12Additionally, I am doing a MONOPOEM GIVEAWAY as a thank you to all of you who follow my blog. In order to participate, simply leave a comment below stating your interest in receiving a monopoem. I will keep track of who comments and will pick winners at random. The announcement of winners will be on Wednesday, December 14th! Feel free to comment on this post for a chance to win (on Monday, I’ll give folks another chance).

Here are a few more excerpts from the haiku anthology:

rising river
a shadow still wedged
between the rocks

Susan Constable

*

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.

Richard Wright

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whittling
till there’s nothing left
of the light

Jim Kacian

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mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

Roberta Beary

*

Happy detailing!

José

 

* shifting with yosano akiko

akiko_yosano_youngerThis week I’m sharing tanka by Yosano Akiko as translated by Roger Pulvers.* In a previous post about her work, I focused on the role of tension in her poems. This time around, I have selected tanka that shift narratives midway.

Line by line, the three poems below develop their narrative arc, only to shift in the last two lines. This nuanced skill allows for shifts in perspective (first tanka), a shift in rhetoric (second), or a sudden shift in action (third). Each is a little drama that is accessible to the reader without losing any of its lyrical intimacy.

Two stars deep into heaven
Whispering love
Behind the nighttime curtain
While down below, now, people lie
Their hair in gentle disarray…

夜の帳にささめき尽きし星の今を下界の人の鬢のほつれよ

*

Made to punish men for their sins
The smoothest skin
The longest black hair…
All that
Is me!

罪おほき男こらせと肌きよく黒髪ながくつくられし我れ

*

The girl in a springtime window
Calls to awaken a young priest
Barely a man
His sutras toppled
By her dangling sleeve

うらわかき僧よびさます春の窓ふり袖ふれて經くづれきぬ

akiko_and_tekkan_yosano

Pulvers’ article ends with a final tanka which he prefaces by sharing how the poem was born out of Akiko’s husband, Tekkan, wanting “her to apply his blood to her lips as lipstick.” The manner in which Akiko describes and seizes upon how quickly physical things change reflects the emotional change and reaction to this strange, if intimate, request.

What will come into my burning lips?
You answer…
“The blood from my little finger.”
But that blood is too dry now
For my mouth

もゆる口になにを含まむぬれといひし人のをゆびの血は涸れはてぬ

*

Happy tanka-ing!

José

*Check out Roger Pulvers’ full article & translations here.

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 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.

*

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

* 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
–later,

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!

José

*

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!

José

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

 

* arguing & anniversarying

screenshot_2016-09-29-17-55-22-1

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.

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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!

José

*resonating with josé antonio rodriguez

adelphinotes

 

Last week had me both at the Alice Hoffman Young Writers Retreat at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, as well as in Austin, Texas for the CantoMundo conference. It’s a little more rocknroll that I’m used to, but I had a blast!

Here’s a pic of one of the nice surprises from last week: a collection of personal notes from the young writers I worked with at Adelphi. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel at being given the opportunity to share my work and talk poetry with others. Thank you to all who attended my talk on lyrical prose and who have since reached out since then! Keep the words coming, for yourself and for others!

Each year, CantoMundo hosts a poetry workshop for Latina/o poets that provides a space for the creation, documentation, and critical analysis of Latina/o poetry. This year was the conference’s last time in Austin, and it was nothing short of spectacular! I was able to be in workshops led by Texas State Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla one day, and one led by the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Juan Felipe Herrera. Both poets presented themselves as forces of nature as well as generous guides. Highlights included the readings on Friday and Saturday at the Spider House Ballroom. I read on Saturday, specifically “Drinking at Home” and “Directions” from Everything We Think We Hear.

Sunflowers,_Merritt,_California,_27_June_2013One of my favorite things to do at CantoMundo is to geek out about my favorite poems by the poets who wrote them and who happen to attend the conference. The poem below by José Antonio Rodriguez originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Poetry magazine. I remember copying it out by hand at a bookstore and marveling at the raw imagery, from like a thousand ticks turning their backs to the “halos” at the end. What continues to move me even now in reading is how the imagery is packed with so much emotional resonance, pointing to things hidden as well as things almost there.

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Sunflowers – José Antonio Rodriguez

No pitying/”Ah” for this one – Alan Shapiro

No, nor a fierce hurrah
for what it does without choice,
for following the light
for the same reason the light follows it.

Just a thing rough to the touch, a face
like a thousand ticks turning their backs,
suckling at something you can’t see,
and a body like a tag off the earth

so that my child hands couldn’t tear it out
from the overgrown lot next door.
………………………….My palms raw with the shock
of quills and spines. Its hold like spite, and ugly

except when seen from a distance—
a whole field of them by the highway,
an 80-mile-per-hour view
…………………………..like a camera’s flash.
All of them like halos
without saints to weigh them down.

*

Happy halo-ing!

José

p.s. One week left to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Reasons (not) to Dance! Details below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reasons (not) to Dance by Jose Angel Araguz

Reasons (not) to Dance

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends August 07, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

* radio interview/poetry reading

Just a quick post to share my recent interview on WVXU’s “Around Cincinnati.” During the interview, I read “Directions” and “Raro” from Everything We Think We Hear as well as discuss some of the background of the poems and writing process. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Kelly Blewett & the WVXU crew for having me!

See you Friday!

José