I was recently asked to participate in an experiment of sorts in promotion of poet John Sibley Williams’ latest collection, Disinheritance (Apprentice House Press). John has asked fellow poets to record readings of their favorite poems from the new collection, all with an eye/ear towards how other poets interpret and perform the work. I found the concept fascinating and am happy to present my own contribution to this reading “tour” of the book.
For this project, I chose “Things Start at Their Names,” specifically because of how the poem performs on the page. While the poem starts off with the image of ice locking “the river in place,” everything that follows begins to push against being locked. This push gesture is furthered in the select italicized words, each phrase used as a name in the poem’s argument. What this move does both typographically and conceptually is push the lyric towards speech and voice, as if wanting to “unlock” from ink and rise. A name is what one is “called”; here, each italicized name calls out and summons specific colors to itself and to the poem. One calls out a name in hope of a response; reflecting on the title, a name can be seen as the start of this hope.
In performing this poem, I found myself going at a slower pace than usual. There is something in the construction of the poem that, when read aloud, seems to want to echo the locked ice image and the metaphorical pushes against it. Each time I practiced it, I found myself halting at different times, different phrases; eventually this energy began to feel inherent to the poem.
I want to thank John Sibley Williams for the invitation to participate in this promotional project. I can only hope my reading of it does it justice.
Things Start at Their Names – John Sibley Williams
Ice locks the river in place and my heart
is static for the season and traversable.
Sometimes a boy about the age
my son would be adventures
half way across me before remembering
the duty to destroy the one thing
beneath him. He writes his name
on my rib; it says Curiosity. I reply
with the name I’ve learned to wear: Distance. A fluster of bluegill follows his body
downstream to where it meets the Columbia,
in time the ocean, which I cannot make freeze.
Next spring I will snare the things that still move in me,
beat them against stone, and eat until empty. I have
his name written all over my body; it says Forever be Winter. My wife calls him Gabriel; after all these years
she still calls him Gabriel, and sometimes from the shore
she calls to me: Thaw.
Just a quick post to announce that I was selected for the Distinguished Poet feature for the latest issue of The Inflectionist Review! Along with a selection of poems, I also participated in an interview where I discuss my writing process as well as my views on the current state of poetry in America.
The Inflectionist Review has provided an engaging and supportive community for years now and I am proud to have my work be part of the conversation.
Special thanks to editors A. Molotkov and John Sibley Williams for their support and insightful questions!
In a shallow bay, my father is slumped
inside a black raft, arms flung over each side,
fingers flicking the water. I touch the ripple
of sunset and I want to be his fingerprints
and index his lolled years—carry his melody
of back and forth, unlearn the sway
of push and pushing.
Today I wrap the oars in silk,
leave the telephone receiver pendulous
over the oak table where he taught me
to write my name in English—
that round eddy where forgotten things
appear and disappear like those beetles
I tied to strings during a storm.
I remember that table carved from a bend
in my father’s house, how it listened
to the chorus of wings outside our window—
oaring the sky for forgiveness, oaring the sky
for another way home.
The poem above is just one of many fine poems in the newly released Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry. The way in which the word “oar” is used throughout the poem is a great example of what the editors had in mind by “inflectionism.” As defined on their site, “Inflecting suggests grasping what has come before and redefining it, refocusing it, placing it upon a different point in the arc thereby changing its trajectory.” The last two lines “oaring the sky for/another way home” become for me not just a metaphor for the experience of the speaker but also for the experience of writing, which can be seen via the poem as another kind of “oaring.”
The Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry features all the poems from issues 1-4 as well as an interview and feature of Distinguished Poet, Courtney Druz along with artwork from Anna Daedalus and Kerry Davis.
I’m delighted to have nine of my own poems in the anthology, including some newer work in the Naos persona. Here is “Naos Explains Memory,” which the editors of the Inflectionist Review were generous enough to nominate for a Pushcart Prize:
Naos Explains Memory – José Angel Araguz
Like gradual blindness: each day, more and more, a mix of less and less.
What you do see, you say remember. What filters through: a voice, car lights,
the ends of a dress. Singular and graphic. A strong whiskey.
A root you cannot shake from your body. The color of the last moon.
In a city you do not remember leaving.
The Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry can be purchased here (and make sure to check out the review’s submission guidelines here).
Congratulations to editors John Sibley Williams and A. Molotkov for putting together such a fine anthology!
The countdown to the December 1st release of my full-length collection, Everything We Think We Hear, continues. Since I shared the IR Anthology cover I thought I would share the artwork that will be featured on the cover:
This piece by artist Andrea Schreiber features the kind of dress my mother wore to work at Rosita’s on Baldwin back when I was a kid. As we get closer to the date I plan on sharing the full cover. I did, however, want to share the artwork alone as it is its own special creation. Here are links to the mom-related “Raro” recently published in Compose Journal as well as to The Story Behind “Raro” feature on the piece.