* traveling with sei shonagon

* pillow talk *
* pillow talk *

Last week, I made my way to Warrensburg, MO to participate in the Creative Writing and Innovative Pedagogies (CWIPs) conference sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at the University of Central Missouri. While there, I was part of the panel “Teaching Strange: The Impossible Art of Poetic Weirdness” along with Michelene Maylor, Alyse Bensel, Ryler Dustin, and chaired by Hadara Bar-Nadav. I presented my paper “Teaching the Fragmented Self from Sappho to Twitter” which briefly details the literature course I taught this past Spring that centered around fragmentary writing.

One of the texts we engaged with in the course was The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon pictured aboveI brought this book filled with lists, personal musings and observations of 11th Century Heian Japan along with me for the trip. Sei’s project was to write focused on every day things. Despite this outward ambition, much of her sensibility comes through, as can be seen in the following:

84.  I Remember a Clear Morning

I remember a clear morning in the Ninth Month when it had been raining all night. Despite the bright sun, dew was still dripping from the chrysanthemums in the garden. On the bamboo fences and criss-cross hedges I saw tatters of spider webs; and where the threads were broken the raindrops hung on them like strings of white pearls. I was greatly moved and delighted.

As it became sunnier, the dew gradually vanished from the clover and the other plants where it had lain so heavily; the branches began to stir, then suddenly sprang up of their own accord. Later I described to people how beautiful it all was. What most impressed me was that they were not at all impressed.

The attention to detail as well as how those details strike one’s person as opposed to others is what made Sei’s book a perfect travel companion. As I finished rereading the book, I found Sei joining the ranks of my personal poet tribe that I carry around in my heart.

* carry on luggage *
* carry on luggage *

Speaking of travel companions, Spoot somehow made his way into my luggage and joined as I familiarized myself with Warrensburg. Here is Spoot hanging out with me at the Old Drum Coffeehouse and Bakery. Other, non-beluga related sights included:

* dragon! *
* dragon! *

This surprise dragon painting found further down Holden Street;

* con verse *
* con verse *

the requisite #ihavethisthingwithfloors photo;

and this piece from Devin Mitchell’s Veteran Vision Project which was on display at UCM’s Gallery of Art and Design. The exhibit focuses on the multiple identites veterans, young and old, live with. Find out more about this project here.

***

Special thanks to Phong Nguyen, Kathryn Nuernberger and everyone else involved in making the CWIPs conference a wonderful experience!

Happy Warrensburging!

José

 

 

* final reasons (not) to dance excerpts & art

For various reasons, I fell behind in sharing more from my latest chapbook of prose poems and flash fictions, Reasons (not) to Dance. As promised, here is the final installment of excerpts and artwork from the project.

* train of thought *
* train of thought *

This almost-cover image was inspired by the piece below, “Relinquished.” One of the memories that always comes up when revisiting this particular piece is one audience member’s reaction back in 2013. I was doing a reading for the Eugene Public Library’s Windfall Reading Series (run by the Lane Literary Guild) and performing excerpts from an early draft of Reasons. As the narrative developed, there was a gasp that reached me as the piece came to its conclusion:

 

Relinquished

 

                        after Lafcadio Hearn

 

A Buddhist priest – upon receiving a note of love from a woman who had seen him only in passing and could not think of anything else and now hoped for a response from his heart –wrote a letter himself saying that he relinquished his body for he was growing weak and did not want to sin and sent it to his superior before heading out in time to kneel between the rails as an oncoming train made its scheduled trail of smoke and sound in the night – leaving what was left of the man’s heart to be turned over and over in the sleepless thoughts of a woman.

***

* what blossoms here *
* what blossoms here *

This last image was inspired by the piece that closes Reasons, “Rewarded.” A side note: the story of the man and the tree retold in this piece is from a Zen Buddhist tale. Between the piece above and this one, one can read one of the underlying themes of the project, the worlds one experiences between restlessness and rest:

 

Rewarded

 

Showering under a low faucet, I see the sun begin to show at the window. The room fills with orange light, and I am like the man rewarded for his silence as he slept under an orange tree that dropped its blossoms over him in such a way he heard a voice thank him for his words on emptiness. When he spoke up, and said he had said nothing, the tree agreed, he had said nothing, and the tree had heard nothing, and the rush of blossoms poured on.

***

Reasons (not) to Dance is available from FutureCycle Press is available in paperback and Kindle here.

Thank you to all who have bought copies and have shared your thoughts on the project. Special thanks to Diane Kistner and everyone at FutureCycle Press for all the support with this project.

Thank you also to Blue Earth Review for publishing both “Relinquished” and “Look” (shared here) and placing them 2nd in Blue Earth Review’s 2014 Flash Fiction contest.

Lastly, a very special thanks to Andrea Schreiber (“my co-conspirator” to whom the chapbook is dedicated) for all the great artwork and support. It is her art displayed not only on the cover but also on the Reasons-related art/excerpts posts today and from this summer.

See you next Friday!

Jose

* beginning with juan felipe herrera & some news

This week’s poem by Juan Felipe Herrera (recently appointed as the first Chicana/o U.S. Poet Laureate) caught me towards the end the first time I read it. The way the details come together. The turn and return at the end to the image of something dark around the neck. Each reading of it since that first helps me appreciate the lyrical nerve at work.

The words about the grandmother had me in my memories of my own grandmother who passed when I was nineteen. I’ve been in a similar space as the poem describes, “inventing her memory.” For me, “black sparkles” is ink, each word more of the “leash” the poet writes of.

Cimabue, Goya, Beginnings – Juan Felipe Herrera

I carry a dark necklace around my neck.
It’s painted on.

No one has taken notice.

They think it’s an outline or an odd shadow.
No one has stared longer than a few seconds.

I’ll tell you.

I didn’t know where to put all the fragments of the novel
that family never finished. It had such sweet beginnings,
but it grew umber with a one-eyed madonna hovering
over the lampshade.

So many years, I whispered to her
come to me,
listen to me
I understand.

She would appear to me with gold-leaf
around her braids and seven daggers erect over the heart;

perhaps the last desire; the first real words
escaping from my grandmother’s grave, trying to touch
my hair as I sat at seventeen, writing,
inventing her memory.

Her voice was so loving,
now, all that remains is this broken leash
of black sparkles.

Frescoes in the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi, southern transept, scene: Apocalypse, Detail by Cimabue
Frescoes in the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi, southern transept, scene: Apocalypse, Detail by Cimabue

I’d also like to announce that my full-length microfiction collection Everything We Think We Hear has just been accepted for publication by Floricanto Press!!!

This manuscript has gone through several incarnations since 2012. The move towards microfiction happened in the last year. Something conceptually clicked about these pieces as I was working with FutureCycle Press on the finishing touches of my recent chapbook Reasons (not) to Dance. FutureCycle’s belief in one project breathed life into another.

I’ll be sharing more updates on the project as the book comes together.

Happy everything!

Jose

 

* chapbooks celebration reading

As promised, I have uploaded another reading from our time in Texas back in April. I had hoped to share videos of me reading from both Corpus Christi Octaves and The Wall in order to celebrate their respective anniversaries. Sadly, the reading from the Octaves was severely crashed by seagulls and sun. The seagulls kept cawing over the words (these were poetic seagulls, mind you) and the sun kept me squinting the whole time. I also ended up bursting out laughing at the seagulls mid-reading. It was a mess! But it did lend itself to this iconic screenshot where the inspiration for the cover (artwork by Andrea Schreiber) can be seen:

* mirador mirando *
* mirador mirando *

All being said, we had fun! Below is a reading from The Wall that came out, only minor seagull interference. The text of the poems read are also below:

Key Dream – Jose Angel Araguz

In which I guide the metal, shave it down, follow the make of another key snapped where one would hold it, and when done, turn to face a door I remember from a neighborhood I never lived in but visited once to hear stories of my father, a door that is locked when I try the handle so that I pull out the new key, and when that jams, begin talking to myself, and stop only to lift a key ring from my side, slide the new key next to a hundred others, and let my arm fall, the key ring hitting my side in a dark chuckle.

Ocean Dream – Jose Angel Araguz

In which I am pushed down into the sand only to look up and see a man running into the waves, his legs then breaking into waves, his body breaking into waves, something of my father’s face breaking into waves, until all I am left with is that clash of water and sun that makes metaphor unnecessary.

Concrete – Jose Angel Araguz

Now I’m as old as my father was
When less than a year was left him (Carl Dennis)

At this point, my father had been in jail long enough to be used to concrete, his walls, floors, and sky the same color as the memories I have of him, a color that does not deepen despite the ink and pages, a color that comes out in the weather only when the clouds are full and waiting to let fall nothing one can hold onto.

***

See you Friday!

Jose

 

* another excerpt from Reasons (not) to Dance

* holy dancin' castles *
* holy dancin’ castles *

As promised, here is a second installment celebrating the release of my chapbook Reasons (not) to Dance!

Above is another of the ink paintings by Andrea Schreiber that was nominated as a possible cover. This ink painting was specifically inspired by the piece “Spinster,” the text of which is below.

Enjoy!

Spinster – José Angel Araguz 

You want me to tell you about life here. There was a castle where a woman was buried within a wall as a sacrifice. They knew nothing about her except she loved to dance. Later, there was a law against dancing. You knew when someone was breaking the law because the castle would begin to shake. Mother called the woman a saint: only someone who was pure could root out those who wronged. The night my father left, the castle crumbled down. Granted, this is only partly true. It was told to me and I tell you, not because I believe in dancing castles. I believe you have come here wanting stories, and all I have learned are reasons not to dance.

*

Copies of Reasons (not) to Dance can be purchased here.

Happy (not) dancing!

Jose

* hollering with cisneros

Human beings pass me on the street, and I want to reach out and strum them as if they were guitars. Sometimes all humanity strikes me as lovely. I just want to reach out and stroke someone, and say There, there, it’s all right, honey. There, there, there.

Sandra Cisneros, from ” Never Marry a Mexican”

 

After last week, I’ve been enjoying hitting the books on my exams list again. This week I’m revisiting the work of Sandra Cisneros. In rereading her short story collection Woman Hollering Creek, written after The House on Mango Street with a book of poems in between, it’s interesting to note echoes of Mango Street, at least in terms of formal music and spirit.

The above excerpt, for example, has the nuance and linguistic power of evocation of the best short pieces that make up The House on Mango Street. Yet, even in this excerpt, one can see that the stakes are different. Where Mango Street is a book of childhood, of youthful observation and insight, here the speaker is possessed of the wildness of adulthood. And it’s there in the language. The last sentence’s “There, there, there” evokes the strumming of a guitar in an almost tangible way.

It is in this evocation that Cisneros builds off her previous collection of stories and continues in the spirit of what Charles Baudelaire, in dreaming and defining the prose poem, described as “the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm or rhyme, supple and agile enough to adapt to the lyrical movements of the soul.”

Prose poem, flash fiction, short short, microcuento – whatever banner the lyrical movements happen under, the eye and heart are first to recognize the signs.

Rachel says that love is like a big black piano being pushed off the top of a three-story building and you’re waiting on the bottom to catch it. But Lourdes says it’s not that way at all. It’s like a top, like all the colors in the world are spinning so fast they’re not colors anymore and all that’s left is a white hum.

There was a man, a crazy who lived upstairs from us when we lived on South Loomis. He couldn’t talk, just walked around all day with this harmonica in his mouth. Didn’t play it. Just sort of breathed through it, all day long, wheezing, in and out, in and out.

This is how it is with me. Love I mean.

Sandra Cisneros, from “One Holy Night”

*

Happy hollering!

Jose

p.s. Check out a previous post on a Cisneros-inspired microfiction here.

* new chapbook – Reasons (not) to Dance – released!!!

* new chapbook - eek! *
* new chapbook – eek! *

I am happy to announce the release of my new chapbook, Reasons (not) to Dance!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this collection of prose poems and flash fictions imaginatively explores moments of hesitation and celebration in the tradition of the Latin American microcuento as practiced by Ana Maria Shua, Eduardo Galeano, and Agosto Monterroso.

To celebrate, I will be posting short readings throughout the summer. Along with excerpts from the chapbook, I will be sharing some of the artwork that made as well as almost made the cover.

Speaking of which, the ink painting on the cover is by Andrea Schreiber (often referred to on the blog as “Ani”). Here’s the original piece:

* looking *
* looking *

The image was inspired by the piece “Look” which I include below along with a short reading. “Look” was originally published in Blue Earth Review and earned 2nd place (along with another Reasons piece, “Relinquished”) in BER’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. Enjoy!

Look

after Kafka

When the afternoon light has turned to evening light and she turns to tell you this, points out the purple as the kind of purple she would want a whole room painted in, and you consider what that room would be like if you stood in it, this purple at every side, when the sky you are both looking at seems different each time you look and in your mind say look to yourself and look because she has been looking and wants you to as well, when she perhaps has even gone as far as to enter that room and close the door behind her and is standing alone with this purple at every side, when all you can do is turn from the purple glints across her eyes and look again at the sky, a deeper purple now that imbues itself on the stones of the church, on the sides of the tree, on the slick of the leaves, on the skin of the couple passing by, a purple distance between them, a purple silence and a purple expression on each of their faces – then it is time to shut the blinds and for a moment stand with her in the completely darkened room and let your eyes and hers adjust.

*

To purchase a copy of Reasons (not) to Dance go here.

Special thanks to Diane Kistner and all the good people at FutureCycle Press!

Also, I now have an author page on both Goodreads and Amazon! Feel free to stop by and share your thoughts on the new chapbook. More excerpts and readings to come throughout the summer!

Happy reasoning!

Jose

* new work up at Star 82 Review

* mine own hang-up *
* mine own hang-up *

Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Star 82 Review which includes my piece “Hangman Ode.” Read it here.

The issue features work from B.J. Best, Eve Kenneally, and Todd Mercer along with other fine work. Check it out here.

I’m especially excited because “Hangman Ode” is a part of Reasons (not) to Dance, a flash fiction/prose poem chapbook forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. The project explores ideas of risks as played out in short prose pieces that range from the fabulistic to the memoiristic. My guides in writing these come from the Latin American microcuento tradition, writers such as Augusto Monterroso and Julio Cortazar.

Stay tuned for further news to come later this week on this project!

See you Friday!

Jose

* new work up & forthcoming news

Just a quick post to share the news of two recent publications.

First, this weekend marked the publication of Right Hand Pointing’s Issue 87 “Alabama,” a states themed issue. I’m happy to have been allowed to do my part to rep both Oregon (here) and Ohio (here). Special thanks to the RHP editors!

* twitch hitter *
* twitch hitter *

Also out this week is the latest issue of The Citron Review which includes my microfiction piece “Twitch.” Read it here.

 I’m especially excited about this piece as it is part of my forthcoming chapbook “Reasons (not) to Dance.”

Intrigued? Me, too.

Mas news about this soon, promise.

See you, Friday!

Jose

* new work up at apogee journal’s blog: perigree

* cinnamontography *
* cinnamontography *

Just a quick note to share that my flash fiction piece “Forgotten Conversation” has recently been published on Apogee Journal’s Blog: Perigree.

Check it out here.

Special thanks to Cecca Ochoa for working with me in shaping the final version.

This work means something special to me for where it took me towards the end, evoking Sandra Cisneros from her Loose Woman poems as a kind of patron(a) saint of the broken hearted!

See you Friday!

Jose