* reading from The Divorce Suite!

September ended up being such a busy month that I never got around to sharing more excerpts from The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). Luckily, a recent outing to the Spring Grove Cemetery provided a nice background and inspiration for a reading. Below are the poems “Gift” and “The Accordion Heart” along with a clip of my reading them.

I chose these two poems because they are both what I term “makeshift sonnets.” There was a year (2006, I believe) when I wrote a sonnet a day; terribly rhymed creatures they were, all sorts of misguided phrasing. I then took a break from writing in the form for a few years, returning to the form after learning about William Carlos Williams and his idea of the sonnet as simply the shape of an argument.

With that framework to brace me, I wrote my way back into the fourteen line form, feeling out an argument or sense of argument. Both of these poems work out their own sense of argument, and strike their separate notes that compliment the overall project of The Divorce Suite.

*

Gift – José Angel Araguz

A man with a heavy German accent
handed me a book by Brigitte Reimann,
said he had bought it but had to leave
suddenly, and wanted to gift it
to the store. He walked off then.
Gift it, I kept repeating, telling
the story to anyone who’d listen.
Do you know how great that is?

The front photo was the color of smoke,
the author, young, and holding a cigarette.
It looked as if by standing there,
she colored everything around her.
When I looked it up, I found the title
translated to: Everything tastes like farewell.

*

The Accordion Heart – José Angel Araguz (*)

The accordion heart is hard to carry.
There are no hands for it. To play,
you go from face to face and wait
to see who wakes it up. You’ll feel
the air inside you pull and stretch.
You’ll feel awkward and loud, and yet
each movement could be music. You
can see where this could lead to something.

Sometimes the face won’t want to play.
Sometimes the face will play too long.
Either way, you’ll feel worn out.
You’ll want to punch and tear a hole,
and prove the accordion heart is useless.
There are no hands for it. You wait.

*

The Divorce Suite can be purchased from Red Bird Chapbooks.

Happy accordioning!

José

(*) “The Accordion Heart” was originally published in Foothill: a journal of poetry.

* (un)locking with john sibley williams

disinheritance

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.

*

*

Happy disinheriting!

José

P.S. To learn more about John’s work check out his site . John also runs one of my favorite online journals, The Inflectionist Review, which he edits jointly with poet A. Molotkov.

*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.

***

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

* new tanka at a hundred gourds!

Just a quick post to share some new tanka in the latest issue of A Hundred Gourds! My tanka can be found on page 4 and page 14, respectively.

banner_AHG_entryThis issue is filled with great work by Janet Lynn Davis, Claire Everett, and Chen-ou Liu among many others. Check it out here!

Thank you to Susan Constable for including my work!

*

Also, I wanted to share a recent post I did for the Cincinnati Review blog highlighting a poem from the latest issue. Check out my reading and interpretation (including connections to Janus & Fight Club!) of Joshua Coben’s “Antechamber.”

*

Lastly, here are the dates again for next week’s readings in Corpus Christi, Texas:

*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Reading & Book Signing 11am

*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Open Mic feature 7pm

*)Thursday, March 10th 2016 Texas A&M University Corpus Christi: Opening Reader for Laurie Ann Guerrero 7pm

I’ll also be spending the afternoon doing a talk/reading at Foy H. Moody High School the Friday of that week.

*

See you Friday!

José

* existing with gisela kraft & an update

 

five-story house in laleli – Gisela Kraft

one lies in rags on the street
and his stomach is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits with friends at tea and backgammon
and his mind is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits in a straight-backed chair at a desk
and his bank account is empty
and he wishes for death

one lies in bed staring out to sea
and the place next to him in bed is empty
and he wishes for death

one flies back with food in its beak
and its nest is empty
and only this one says
we should give it another try

(trans. Laura Leichum)

This short lyric has quickly become a favorite of mine in the past few weeks. I’m charmed by the way the seemingly simple refrain quickly enters into allegory. The repetitions of “empty” and “death” build up an atmosphere of dejection and set up the turn at the end of the poem. The impersonal and non-specific nature of “one” as an address allows for the final stanza’s change in perspective; something “flies” in the heart of the reader and defies the preceding stanzas of emptiness and death, and gives further impetus to exist. There’s also a structural charm to the poem in the way the “five-story house” is played out in the five stanzas of the poem.

***

It has been a week since the official release of my collection Everything We Think We Hear. Since then, I have been humbled and moved by the warm reception and good wishes people have shown the new book. Thank you to all who have shown interest and bought the book!

After some minor issues, the book is available for order on Amazon!

As part of a partly superstitious and partly practical (or so I tell myself) process, I went ahead and ordered myself a copy. Here’s a pic that shows that my little book does indeed exist:

This copy is going straight to mom in Texas. I’ll make sure to post an update here when I receive my own copies for sale.

Happy existing!

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

* 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

 

* 2014 End of Year Reading

Seeing as we’ll be in 2015 by next Friday – life happens that quick! – I thought I would do something different to wrap up 2014.

Below is a short reading from my chapbook Corpus Christi Octaves done on the banks of the Ohio River earlier this week. Note the heavy fog on the river: by the end of recording, we were halfway in fog ourselves.

Special thanks to my wife, Ani, for going above and beyond the call of duty in the name of poetry by both recording this reading as well as providing the cover art for the book:

* bien hecha *
* bien hecha *

The collection deals with the passing of Dennis Flinn and Christine Maloy, poet friends from my hometown Corpus Christi, Texas. The poems read – “Sky,” “Stage,” & “Snow” – are written in an eight line form, each with its own syllabic measure.

Thank you to each and every one of you who stops by and reads this blog. My goal when I started was to have a forum in which to send a little positive poetry-centric energy out into the world. Through your readership, I feel that energy to have been returned many times over.

Enjoy the reading – awkwardness, fog, & all! Good writing and reading to you in the new year!

See you next Friday!

Happy fogging!

Jose

* remembering galway kinnell

Given this week’s news of Galway Kinnell’s passing, I find myself heading into Dia de los Muertos this weekend with him on my mind.

I had the pleasure of attending a reading he gave alongside Phil Levine in NYC. The two great poets chatted at their table before the reading. When the time came to start, Galway walked up to the mic and in his booming, majestic baritone gave a stellar reading of Phil’s poem “They Feed They Lion.” The room was collectively knocked out. Phil then walked up and replaced Galway at the podium, and said: “Gee, that was pretty good.”

They then proceeded to take turns, poem by poem, reading each other’s work. I remember how well the two voices complimented each other’s work, Phil adding some lyric subtlety to his reading of Galway’s “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of the Christ into the New World,” and Galway delivering the grit and grace behind Phil’s poems.

Grit and grace are two solid words to remember Galway Kinnell by, words exemplified in the meditation in the poem below.

* el maestro *
* el maestro *

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak – Galway Kinnell

The man splitting wood in the daybreak
looks strong, as though, if one weakened,
one could turn to him and he would help.
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel
through the air so hard the hard maple
leapt apart, as it’s feared marriages will do
in countries reluctant to permit divorce,
and even willow, which, though stacked
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore,
to the married-until-death—sunders
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers,
but they help us only by the unperplexed
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones.
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated,
can’t, even in spring, break through the hard earth.
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do.
We have to hold our children up to lean on them.
Everyone who could help goes or hasn’t arrived.
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak,
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me.

***

Happy stronging!

Jose