* new chapbook: Corpus Christi Octaves

* new chapbook! *
* new chapbook! *

I am happy to announce that my new chapbook – Corpus Christi Octaves – is officially available from Flutter Press! Purchasing info here.

This collection is made up of two elegiac sequences and an interlude. My goal with the two sequences is to honor my friends both for what they meant to me but also for the poets they were. In discussing Donald Justice’s championing of Weldon Kees recently with a friend, I found myself saying: “We gotta keep each other alive somehow.” There’s some of that in these sequences. My model in the spirit of the poems is Greek poet Yannis Ritsos, whose eloquent series on the poet Cavafy never ceases to amaze me in its ability to pay tribute both to the poet and to the craft of poetry. The interlude delves a bit deeper both into the setting, South Texas, as well as my own role of poet/elegist. The poems here meditate on different facets of the themes brought up in the sequences.

Another thing that marks this collection is the use of syllabics. In each of the eight-line poems, I work out a syllabic pattern, the jolt and jar of which allows for surprises as well as a sense of brevity and preciousness. This project took me back to when I was in 2nd grade and someone had showed me the 5-7-5 count of haiku, which then started me on the path of sitting in silence, wagging fingers in the air, doling out each word.

Here’s a sample:

Snow

The snow today brings back the first snow,

     white like this, at turns pristine,

     then bitter like this, broken

by steps whose depths can’t be guessed like this.

 

We’ve treated one another like snow,

     watched each other fall and drift.

     You have come today like snow,

and made me pause. And like snow you leave.

***

Special thanks to Andrea Schreiber for the remarkable ink painting commissioned for the cover. She did a great job of capturing a Corpus Christi icon, the miradores which line the sea wall:

* life imitating art *
* life imitating art *

Special thanks also to John Drury, Daniel Groves, and Sam Roderick Roxas-Chua for their wonderful comments on the back cover.

A very special thanks to Sandy Benitez, editor of Flutter Press, for helping me find a home for this project. Flutter Press is a micro poetry press that utilizes print on demand (POD) technology to publish modern, beautiful chapbooks, 6″ x 9″, with glossy covers. They have published collections by Howie Good and Dale Wisely. Find out more about the press here.

And thank you to everyone who has supported me along the road of doling out words!

See you Friday,

Jose

* Donald Justice & the friday influence

The Assassination – Donald Justice

It begins again, the nocturnal pulse. 
It courses through the cables laid for it. 
It mounts to the chandeliers and beats there, hotly. 
We are too close. Too late, we would move back. 
We are involved with the surge. 

Now it bursts. Now it has been announced. 
Now it is being soaked up by newspapers. 
Now it is running through the streets. 
The crowd has it. The woman selling carnations 
And the man in the straw hat stand with it in their shoes. 

Here is the red marquee it sheltered under. 
Here is the ballroom, here 
The sadly various orchestra led 
By a single gesture. My arms open. 
It enters. Look, we are dancing.

(June 5, 1968)

***

*carnations*

This week on the Influence: Donald Justice.

Picked up the poem above from reading through John Drury’s Poetry Dictionary.   The assassination in the poem is that of Robert Kennedy’s in 1968.

Drury places the poem in the chance poetry category.  In writing this poem, Justice wrote words on cards and picked them out at random as he wrote.

I sense some of the risk-taking of this practice in the “charged” words of the first stanza, and in the phrase “soaked up by newspapers” in the second.  It’s only a guess, but on my third reading of the poem, the phrase struck me as masterfully plucked from its context of what to do about a spill and given a new life in this poem.

I am moved by the menace and epic feel achieved in the indirect take on the subject.  Here you have a poem about a political misfortune that delves into the human aspect of it – how news travel into our lives.  I noted on each rereading of the poem how the word “it’ becomes sinister and carries the emotion of the poem to the end.  The end itself drives home a sense of mortality, of interrupted life.

On a lighter note: the carnations are brought to you courtesy of last week’s birthday celebration.

Bought them on the fly before dinner.

***

Also: I have two poems in Turn, an anthology of poems about seasons put out last month by Uttered Chaos Press.  Copies can be purchased on the Uttered Chaos website here OR on Amazon here.  Special thanks to UC editor Laura LeHew.

***

Happy uttering!

Jose