* My Writing Process Blog Tour!

Happy Monday, y’all!

I’ve been invited to participate in the My Writing Process: Blog Tour by poet extraordinaire, Lisa Ampleman. Here’s some info on Lisa:

Lisa Ampleman is the author of a book of poetry, Full Cry (NFSPS Press, 2013), and a chapbook, I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You (Kent State University Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Check out her site here.

The tour is focused on sharing a bit about our writing process. Here are my answers to the tour’s questions:

  • What are you working on?

Globally, I just put the finishing touches on two full-length poetry manuscripts. Each has taught me a bit more about learning the character of a project. A little more locally, I am trying some new things in regards to my daily writing, which tends to be form-focused.

  • How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

I believe it’s a lifetime goal to have your work differ from that of others. Or, rather, that we should be pushing ourselves closer and closer to ourselves with each poem. If there’s anything I aim for consistently is vulnerability – whether that comes through rawness of content or pushing myself into a formal structure that makes me uncomfortable and staying with it. Something James Cummins says about writing sestinas applies here, that it is a process of humiliation and perseverance.

  • Why do you write what you do?

I write what comes. When I work on a poem, free write or several drafts in, I see my job primarily as a mover of words, of making choices and reading into the possibilities and consequences of those choices. I suppose it’s like an inner divining rod leading to fresh water 🙂

  • How does your writing process work?

Time is the biggest factor. There’s the time I put in daily, at least half an hour. Merwin describes his daily writing as a listening in to see what can be heard that day. There’s also the time I let pass after I finish a notebook. I’m working on poems at the moment whose first drafts were in 2012. The time away allows me to become a different writer than when I wrote it, to read more, learn more. Anything to help me see past myself.


* site-seeing *
* site-seeing *

Tune in a week from now and check out the responses from these fellow poets:

Miriam Sagan founded and directs the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College. Her most recent collection of poetry is SEVEN PLACES IN AMERICA: A Poetic Sojourn (Sherman Asher Publishing). She recently hung 24 hours of diary entries on a laundry line at Salem Art Works in upstate New York and this winter is headed to The Betsy Hotel in Miami to install a poem on sand. She has been in residence in national parks, sculpture gardens, and in a trailer with Center for Land Use Interpretation at the edge of a bombing range in Great Basin. She has been awarded the Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and this year’s Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts. Check out her blog here.


Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and the upcoming The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Horror. Her web site is here.


Sam Roderick Roxas-Chua has read for Oregon Poetry Association, Windfall Reading Series, Isangmahal Arts Collective, NW Poets Concord, Talking Earth, PoetsWest, Brigadoon Books, Fault Lines and Word Lab in Manila, Philippines. He is published by Vena Cava, Word Laboratories, Mixer Publishing, Concord, and Paw Print Publishing. His most recent work appears in The Inflectionist Review and his three-poem poster to promote his first collection, Fawn Language, is featured in the 25th Anniversary Showcase at Poets House in New York City.Fawn Language is published by Tebot Bach of Huntington Beach, California. His blog is here.

* tide talk via a short interview

This week I want to share this short interview courtesy of Miriam’s Well. Poet extraordinaire, Miriam Sagan, was kind enough to send 3 solid questions my way, and I did my best to say something decent.

Hope everyone’s holidays went well.  See you next Friday!


* tide be high *
* tide be high *


3 Questions for Jose Angel Araguz

December 21, 2013 — Miriam Sagan


1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

The simplest answer I can give to this question is that it comes and it goes like the tides.

There are times when I know exactly what a poem is doing, what the line should be, and am able to gather my sensibility around that feeling. Then there are times where I keep on writing but the feeling for the line recedes, I am left with the rocks and debris of the feeling pulling away.

Line, for me, is a mix of intuition and nerve.

Intuition in that I write from myself past myself, into a space where something is being said (as opposed to my trying to say something). On a good day I end up with something that I can’t trace the origin of. Nerve comes into play right alongside intuition – it is the nerve to make choices, to push further, to cross out a whole page (I write longhand) and start over with a handful of words. Constant experimentation keeps both intuition and nerve healthy.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your

writing and your body?

Writing has always been a very physical thing for me. The lyric is musical at heart. As a child, my aunt would get after me for humming and singing to myself as we went grocery shopping. Couldn’t tell you what the music was, I just liked the motion and emotion possible.

This feel for motion and emotion settled into an obsession which I eke a little more out of each day. The sounds of words, the turns of phrases in conversation, everything feeds it. The eye may sleep, but the ear stays awake. Ultimately, it boils down to writing that is clear like music. And what is music but noise set apart, sounds put into their own context?

When I read a new poet, I keep this in mind. What is their music? What is mine?

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

No. Everything that makes writing difficult tends to be peripheral and irrelevant: bills, career(s), envy, ambition, etc. In terms of being a poet – and I am only most a poet during those moments tangled in intuition and nerve described above – there is only the work. The work at hand, the work to come. Poetry is work that works itself out. We’re just along for the ride.


The short prose poem below came to mind as I answered the question regarding writing and the body. For me, the revelation in the writing of the poem comes towards the end. The image the poem centers on is taken up and the sense of being engulfed is evoked in just a sentence. Writing to that end was something physical and real.


On a clear night, the moon looks down and finds itself reflected, all of its light cast in the shape of the world, a radiance that surrounds and cups as if hands, as if praying, as if drinking.

* sketching with Miriam Sagan

*historically historic district*
*historically historic district*

This is a church right across the street from our new apartment in Cincinnati.  We have moved into a historic district which reveals new things with each walk we take around the neighborhood.

The drive across country was a series of things being revealed.  In Itasca, Ani pointed out a cardinal excitedly, fascinated with how the actual red of the cardinal is a different from what she envisions in her head.  I told her to sketch it.  She responded: How do you sketch that red?


A few weeks before the move I was delighted to receive from Miriam Sagan herself a copy of her book “Seven Places in America: A Poetic Sojourn.”  The poems and essays in the book follow Sagan as she travels to seven places and documents the life lived and seen.  It was a great guide for my own poetic sojourn, and the inspiration for my post last week.

The poem below is one of a number poems in Sagan’s book that create their magic through a series of short lyrics.  There’s something about the short lyric that is ideal for travel.  When you travel there is so much to see – you can barely take it all in, much less write about it.

How do you sketch that red?

One line at a time.


Sketches in a Notebook – Miriam Sagan

a lizard
in a rolled up shade

tree bromeliads –
two cormorants
build a nest of twigs

man with a cane
crosses path with
a tiny turtle

child pats the palm tree
the alligator

tree canopy
butterfly, and purple glade
morning glory

rare buttonwood vine
looks like any foliage –
but rare –

a leaf drops in
the mahogany hammock –
without season

out of the palm trees
a peacock darts – escaped –
but from where?

tree snail gleams
in the leaf canopy –
stolen ghost orchid

raindrops’ circles –
yellow spatterdock flowers
floating green pods –

two shy vultures
pick raindrops
off the car’s roof

only the most
delicate colored pencils
draw the tree snail’s shell

drawn in an inky line,
overcast afternoon

drop tip
implies rain


Happy implying!


* check out Miriam Sagan’s blog here.

* one year later & three chinese poets

[the lyric poet] always says “I” and sings us through the full chromatic scale of his passions and desires – (Nietzche)

*duly noted*
*duly noted*

Think what you will of Nietzche, he goes overlooked as a poet – and I don’t mean his actual poems but more the spirit with which he approached his writing.  Like the quote above shows, the big N had a way with the aphoristic insight, a lyric way of understanding the world that showed in everything he said.

It is in this spirit that I started this blog a year ago.

Along with having a place for people interested in my work to find me and connect, I wanted a forum with which to share some of what feeds me creatively with fellow readers and writers.

In the past year, I have shared not only poems I admire but other things as well (philosophy, songs, etc.) that have stirred me and made me think – always with an eye towards how it relates to poetry, the writing of it, the spirit of it.

I recently admitted to fellow poet and blog buddy Miriam Sagan that only now, a year later, have I begun to understand what an ever-evolving animal a blog can be.  The Influence has more and more come out of my notebooks, out of my thoughts on a given week.  This approach feels right.

This blog, ultimately, is a reader’s blog.  The enthusiasm that drives me to share is that of a reader, and what insights I stumble upon are due to reading well.  I hope to continue appealing to the reader in all of you.

Lyric poetry is often defined as short and personal.  In many ways, our very lives can be defined as such.  Reading is where these two worlds – where many worlds – meet.

*this, too, is reading*

Here are three poems from Vikram Seth’s book Three Chinese Poets – translations from the work of Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu.  Each poem in its own way pays attention to the short and personal world we live in.


Birdsong Brook – Wang Wei

Idly I watch cassia flowers fall.
Still is the night, empty the hill in Spring.
Up comes the moon, startling the mountain birds.
Once in a while in the Spring brook they sing.


In the Quiet Night – Li Bai

The floor before my bed is bright:
Moonlight – like hoarfrost – in my room.
I lift my head and watch the moon.
I drop my head and think of home.


Thoughts While Travelling at Night – Du Fu

Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.

Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River’s spate.

Letters have brought no fame.
Office?  Too old to obtain.

Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between earth and sky.


Happy drifiting!