new poems out in the world!

Just a quick note to share news of some recent publications:

First, I’m happy to report that the good folks at the Laurel Review gave two new prose poems a home, “Wax Lips” and “Pavlovian.” Special thanks to editor extraordinaire John Gallaher and co. for the support!

Also, I’m happy to share that two poems (“Negative” and “To a Corkscrew”) from another project are featured in the latest edition of Spacecraft Project. Special thanks to Gillian Parrish for the support!

Check out “To a Corkscrew” below and click here to read “Negative” over at Spacecraft Project.

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José Angel Araguz

To a Corkscrew

My hand steadies
your twisted line—
I think of my father,
if I’m meeting him

here. This
night-colored wine
wavers between us,
its taste shaped

by so much waiting. Once open,

the air
begins to change
what waits—

you’re stuck where I can’t see you, the burn

of before—

only after
aches in my hand.

microreview & interview: Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals by Laura Cesarco Eglin

review by José Angel Araguz

Lifeonenotattachedtoconditionals_Cover_Final

The idea of poetry as healing is one that is easily romanticized. This romanticizing comes often with an air of distance: poetry as balm after the fact of hurt. However, there is another facet to healing, one rawer and more immediate, that poetry can tap into. Poetry as stitches being sewn; as open wound learning to close and scar. Through the dynamic lyricism found throughout Laura Cesarco Eglin’s latest collection, Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals (Thirty West Publishing House, 2020), we come across a poetic sensibility reaching for this latter intersection between the poetic act and healing.

When the speaker of “Melanoma Lines,” for example, shares with the reader “I know / how to listen to what’s not ready,” it is a statement that brings the reader closer to her experience. To know how to “listen” is to know what to listen for, to forge, in this case by necessity, an awareness. Later, in the same poem, the speaker gives an idea of the cost of this knowing:

I smelled myself being burned.
Cauterized, they said, as if I
didn’t know how to detect euphemisms

These lines continue the theme of immediacy and closeness, first through the sensory details of “smelled” and “burned.” Then, by singling out the outside word “Cauterized, they said,” immediacy is implied through the distant air of medical terminology, which the speaker distrusts as detected “euphemisms.” Making this distinction evokes for the reader the nuances of living with melanoma, a reality that is at the heart of this collection. The nuance engaged with here is that on the level of simultaneity and presence: simultaneity in that both “burned” and “Cauterized” exist in the same poetic space as the physical sensation being described by these two words exists for the same person; presence in the voice making these distinctions and dwelling on them.

In “Wrinkled Brow,” further distinctions are made in the same spirit about a headache that occurs “when your diagnosis / returns to melanoma.” Leaping from the imagery suggested in the title, the speaker describes the headache first as “a hefty dark gray cloud” rumbling in, then as “a coup / pressing on my brow, pressing on my thoughts.” This rumble of internal pressure is shown to have effects beyond the physical as the speaker goes on to declare:

so I refuse to iron my shirts
because matters aren’t that simple.
I let it all show,
revealing not that I am unkempt
but that I am
aware.

These lines are telling and powerful on a few levels. First, the title is evoked again in the first line here and expanded upon to the end of the poem. The “simple” act of ironing shirts works here through its implication of order and tidiness, ideas that run counter to the speaker’s experience. In stating that “matters aren’t that simple,” we are returned to the same sensibility of “Melanoma Lines” and that speaker’s calling out of euphemisms for pain. For the speaker here to “let it all show” through a refusal to iron her shirts is to again not kid herself as to the truth of her experiences. Another act of reclaiming and redefinition occurs here, as in “Melanoma Lines,” in the way the speaker clarifies that she is “not…unkempt / but… / aware.” The presence implied in these lines is forceful in an illuminating way. This poem focused on meditating on a physical headache is reframed by the end as a poem about how pain can often have one fighting to stay connected to one’s sense of self.

Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals offers a poetry engaged with survival and healing, and understanding the flux in between. Like the image in “Holding Space for Self” where “the beginning / of crying” is described as “far away / from the eyes—what rips apart” or the line in “Articulating the Change in My Body” where the speaker gives us the line “These scars belong here” rendered in Morse code on the page, Eglin explores and details her experiences with melanoma, and along the way works out a hard-earned wisdom that doesn’t preach but rather makes itself realized and felt. The travel of metaphor and image in “Landmarks” (below) is a good example of what I mean.

So much of healing is out of one’s hands. So much of healing is not healing. So much of healing is keeping up with shifting physical circumstances that force the sense of self to change. Through engagement with the refusals and moments of awareness brought on by the flux between pain and healing, Eglin’s poems offer readers survival as intimate knowledge and fact.

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Laura Cesarco Eglin

Landmarks

Des Moines bridges remind me
of my scar, so recent
it’s still red and tender and
hurts like arriving
in a new city. One
long line adorned with deep
raw dots on each side. It could
well be a doodle, one I make
absentmindedly—like without
realizing it, cancer has drawn
on me, even if I’d decided
I wouldn’t have it.

The bridges here are plural
to connect the East and West,
to connect the skin back to itself with
seventeen sutures, duplicated—
again a plural, like the echo
of the doctor’s voice in my head:
it will come back.

Many bridges, an attempt
to keep me in one piece;
an attempt to keep me
alive long enough
to cross them all.

*

Question: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be?

Laura Cesarco Eglin: Poetry is how poets engage with the world and contribute to it. Poetry, together with translation in my case, is how I think and observe. It’s a way of raising questions and challenging the status quo. Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals takes the repetition and pattern of biopsy, wait, surgery, biopsy, wait, surgery, and uses it to investigate repetition, cycles, near-repetitions, and to find ways to write alternatives. This exploration of possibilities and transformation are part of poetry and translation. The practice of facing situations, working with language, examining details, and letting go, inherent in poetry and translation, are very much a part of Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals.

Question: One of the aspects of this collection that felt most compelling was how the poems moved between the body and the mind, the mind here meaning both memory and imagination as well as immediate sensation. What was it like negotiating those spaces creatively? 

Laura Cesarco Eglin: Actually, I think it is negotiation, but not between memory, imagination, and immediate sensation. Rather, it’s negotiation between how we are expected to operate in the world, i.e. the norm, and how we actually live. This navigating between body and mind and memory and imagination and sensation and thoughts and, and, and, is how my mind works, how it connects from one (image, thought, feeling, memory, etc.) to the other, and holds them, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes in succession, sometimes at a slow pace, sometimes the pace is faster. Poetry allows me to express myself as myself. Poetry allows for ambiguity and simultaneity and association and contradiction and imagination to co-exist. It doesn’t impose an order, a rule, a particular structure. Life is like that: “the disarray in a bouquet, welcomed after having figured out the countless permutations of this is not a fixed arrangement.

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Special thanks to Laura Cesarco Eglin for participating! To keep up with Laura’s work, check out her site. Copies of Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals can be purchased from Thirty West Publishing House.

lauce mayo 2020Laura Cesarco Eglin is a poet and translator. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Calling Water by Its Name, translated by Scott Spanbauer (Mouthfeel Press, 2016), Sastrería (Yaugurú, 2011), and Reborn in Ink, translated by Catherine Jagoe and Jesse Lee Kercheval (The Word Works, 2019). She has also published three chapbooks: Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals (Thirty West Publishing House, 2020), Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate  (The Lune, 2015), and Tailor Shop: Threads, co-translated with Teresa Williams (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her poems, as well as her translations (from the Spanish, Portuguese, Portuñol, and Galician), have appeared in a variety of journals, including Asymptote, Modern Poetry in Translation, Eleven Eleven, Puerto del Sol, Copper Nickel, Spoon River Poetry Review, Arsenic Lobster, International Poetry Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Blood Orange Review, Timber,Pretty Owl Poetry, Pilgrimage, Periódico de Poesía, and more. Cesarco Eglin is the translator of Of Death. Minimal Odes by the Brazilian author Hilda Hilst (co•im•press), winner of the 2019 Best Translated Book Award in Poetry. She co-translated from the Portuñol Fabián Severo’s Night in the North (Eulalia Books, 2020). She is the co-founding editor and publisher of Veliz Books.

community feature: CavanKerry Press Open Reading Period!

Taking a moment to help spread the word about CavanKerry Press‘ current reading period.

ck

Throughout the month of August, CavanKerry Press is accepting submissions for poetry collections, nonfiction essay collections, and memoir. Selected titles will be published by CavanKerry Press and receive national distribution. Check out the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.

Since starting as a member of their Board of Governors, I have been impressed with CavanKerry Press’ interest in receiving more work from queer, trans, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices. With their LaurelBooks imprint, CavanKerry is also engaged with work from people living with physical and/or mental illness and disability.

I’m also happy to share that to better meet writers’ financial needs, CK has revised their submission fee to offer a “Pay what you can” structure, with $10, $18, and $25 options. This is an effort to further their ongoing mission as an inclusive publisher and will in no way impact consideration of your manuscript. There are also a limited number of free submissions for writers-in-need on a first-come, first-served basis.

Happy revising and submitting!

José

feature + interview up at Crab Creek Review blog!

Happy to share a poetry feature and mini-interview that went live earlier this week up at the Crab Creek Review blog!

Screenshot_2017-05-01-14-54-28-2This feature comes as part of their “From Their Archive” series. It’s a generous and encouraging feature to see in the writing community. The post includes my poems “Alien” and “Desgraciado” as well as a short interview where I talk about things that are inspiring me lately and give some advice on the writing life.

“Alien” is included in my second full length poetry collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press). This poem is a good keystone of sorts for that project as it has some of the major themes explored throughout that book.

I’m sharing “Alien” below but highly encourage y’all to check out the full post.

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José Angel Araguz

Alien

When I heard this word first thrown around
in conversation, my family’s Spanish
cracked to let in this strange stretch
of cautious whisper, the weather changed
in my mind. I’d read of spaceships,
of planets so advanced you could
travel freely, no stopping to be
asked about citizenship, no stone
face behind a badge peering
to where I sat in the backseat.
The world became another place.
The word wetback began to bring
to mind the scene where the dark creature
burst from a woman’s stomach
in a movie. The sky grew overcast
in my mother’s eyes, kept her inside,
when someone talked of borders.
Rosaries turned secret communicators.
Prayers: reports of worry and want.
Each crucifix, a satellite.
Before, I would stand outside and look
at what I felt to be not empty space
but an open window to another life.
Now, another life invaded.
There were people with papers,
and there were people without.
There were questions I was told
the answers to should they come up.
There were stories I was asked
to forget. When my mother pressed
the silver face of St. Jude
into my palm, I felt the weight of it,
the cold and unfamiliar
​feel of what I didn’t know.

*

Check out another poem and my mini-interview at the Crab Creek Review blog!

new essay published: excerpt

Far-Villages_Final_CMYK-768x1187This week I’m proud to share an excerpt from my essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems” which was recently included in the anthology Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets edited by Abayomi Animashaun and published by Black Lawrence Press.

This essay engages with the concept of disidentification as established by José Esteban Muñoz in his book Disidentifications: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and uses it as a fulcrum into a meditation on my own struggles at the intersection of identity and creative life. As a writer of color, my experience has been that politics found me first; that is, that I don’t have the privilege to decide to “not get political” as it’s said. As evident from early memories of being a child and getting glared at, along with my family, while at the grocery store, I was politicized long before I knew the words that defined me in the eyes of society.

Later, I sat in political science classes and learned ideas like “living below the poverty line” and “marginalization,” words that struck me with shame as well as insight, and was left unable to theorize about such things as they were words that described who I was, where I came from. Learning, in so many ways, has been a process of piecing myself together in the face of such formative disruptions of self. The learning that I engage with in creating poetry and lyric essays is a similar piecing together.

My essay is broken up into a first half, which meditates in prose about these and similar ideas. The second half goes through a series of poems from my first two collections and engages with a dialogue after each exploring what’s in the poem and what’s left out. I offer below the closing poem and prose section. The poem “A Poco” is new and is not in any of my books. Yet, the conversation on and off the page that I experience with it grapples with the same urgent self-interrogation as the rest of the essay. I share it here now as a way to celebrate this new anthology, but also to say thank you to those of you–past, present, and future–who come here and read this blog. 

Special thanks to Abayomi Animashaun for including this essay in this landmark anthology and to Black Lawrence Press for providing a home for this communal converation! A special thanks and shout-out to poets Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Christina Olivares, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, and Lupe Mendez with whom I participated in the panel Beyond the Blueprint: a poetry reading and panel discussion on the reconstructed self at the 2017 Thinking Its Presence conference: The Ephemeral Archive hosted at the University of Arizona. It was there that I first read a draft of this essay.

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(excerpt from essay “Keeping the Conversation Going, or Some Stories I Can’t Tell Without Rolling My R’s: A Meditation on Latinidad, Disdentification, & Some Poems”)

José Angel Araguz

A Poco

for Ramon

This piece of paper is work? A poco?
I won’t believe that, ni un poco.

It’s work for me with this good eye,
one bad eye from broke glass, pero a poco

tu with two don’t struggle here?
And with books and school? A poco

you all talk about it, in class, I mean,
about what it means? That’s work. A poco,

I’m not here, you don’t write about me,
right? My bad eye? I bet you do. A poco,

no? You have nothing else? You have nothing else.
Don’t say it looks like a bruise gone white. A poco,

no? But don’t say it. Say it’s a marble, or
like my granddaughter says: A poco,

 you can’t see out of that fish eye, abuelo?
Can you see me? Nope. Ni un poco.

What’s in the poem: How my fascination with ghazals and my fascination with South Texas Spanglish work together. How my co-worker Ramon had a clouded eye.

What’s left out: How Ramon’s clouded eye wasn’t glass because taking it out would have caused more overall damage. How Ramon’s thumbs were permanently purple from hammering and missing and hitting his hand. How when we worked side by side at Billy Pugh co. making equipment for oil rigs I felt both honored and intimidated. How the more I wrote into this poem the more I left Ramon’s voice behind. How the biggest breakthrough in writing the poem was having this meta-Ramon ask the question “You have nothing else?” then declare flat out “You have nothing else.” How this meta-Ramon is really me still guilty years later worried I don’t do enough on the page or in my life to honor the people who have helped me survive. How this species of interrogation is never done with, because it is how I honor those who have helped me survive.

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Happy disidentifying!

José

microreview: Primitivity by Amy Sayre Baptista

review by José Angel Araguz

Sayre-Baptistac_w

The flash fiction sequence that makes up Primitivity (Black Lawrence Press) by Amy Sayre Baptista explores a Southern Gothic tradition of storytelling in pieces that are voice-driven and immersive. Using voice in a near-alchemical capacity, Baptista’s characters come to life through phrasing and presence. Take this short passage from the collection’s opener, “Bait”:

This old road is a ghost. Two small plot cemeteries fenced like a crooked grin hold horse thieves that ran the stagecoach road and travelers that met death before destination. Bandits shot for robbing a man blind. Shot for doing the things men do in the dark.

The vivid imagery of the first sentence here mirrors the “crooked” nature of the landscape. The voice here presents the image in a nuanced, casual tone that contrasts the stark human nature being described. This mix of image and tone makes the narrator’s bluntness all the more tangible.

Here and in the other pieces, the poetic sits side-by-side with grit and survival. Southern Gothic tropes are subverted toward feminist and class issues in a way that is both affirming and interrogatory. Where one piece has an aunt clearing caught birds from twig traps while sharing with a child that “Be careful out a mama’s mouth don’t mean nothing ‘cept protect yourself  better than I did,” another explores the literal ghosts of a town murder through a seance, having each party involved speak for themselves. This approach to storytelling strives for compassion while remain unflinchingly true to the characters.

The flash fiction below, “Pike County Consilience,” shows a number of Baptista’s narrative skills at work. A great example of voice driving a narrative, this piece also braids in technical terminology. The juxtaposition of human voice against this terminology evokes a sense of urgency. The main character’s straightforward explanations become a form of rationalizing and re-imagining of hard truths. This impulse on the character’s part becomes relatable at different points, a testament to the power of Baptista’s empathetic approach.

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Amy Sayre Baptista

Pike County Consilience

“Proof is derived through a convergence of evidence from numerous lines of inquiry–multiple, independent inductions, all of which point to an unmistakable conclusion.”
–Scientific American, 2005

A science man studies the world to say why, say how it got made. A Pike County man ciphers the world for what it is, and how to survive it. Me? I got some science in my toolbox right alongside the wire cutters and the claw hammer. Got me a proof, and a theorem or two, just as useable as my crescent wrench. Let it be known to all: I love Jesus Christ. That said, the Son of Man never broke no barriers on the biological front. Chalk that up to Charles Darwin. Talk about loaves and fishes? No small feat, Jesus wins. But give Darwin his due.

Don’t believe in evolution? Make the acquaintance of the good damn brain God gave you, please. Humans? We scrambled up outta dark water; fin, fang, and claw. No doubt. Pretty it ain’t, we used to filter our own sewage out our gills and rip our supper off a breathing bone. Still not convinced? You must be one of them that thinks babies came to life with mother’s love and angel milk. Truth never stands a chance with the feeble-minded. But I’ve had to stare a man back on his haunches. Eye to eye, I recognized the abyss we crawled out of throbbing beneath his pupil. Gibb Delbert’s his name. Glared back at him with a blade at the end of my gaze and knew he was still gonna come for me. Not for a social call neither. That’s evolution, and Gibbs on the slow track.

Darwin was on to something with his consilience. In plain English, that’s many ways of coming to an unmistakable conclusion. For instance, Bud Rickart says to me at the Rod & Gun on a Wednesday night, “Gibb Delbert means to kill you.” That’s just one line of inquiry, as Mr. Darwin was so fond of saying. Gibb comes into said establishment not thirty minutes later with a loaded revolver, puts one in my thigh and one in my shoulder before he gets tackled. That’s conclusive proof.

Action: Gibb done shot me.

Reaction: He went to jail for two months till next Friday,

But what goes up must come down, that’s Newton not Darwin, I hope I’m not moving too fast. This evidence comes together on the quick. Last night I get a call, says, “Will you accept charges from Danville Penitentiary?” Course I decline. This morning, I got a Banty Rooster broke-necked under my windshield wiper.

Proof: Blood feathers mean blood feud.

Times was when a righteous man with a crack shot might claim feud as self-defense. Not so today. Men like me need formularies just like the fellas writing the textbooks. Solving for the unknown in my neighborhood is a high stakes control set. Trajectory of bullets and repositioning the body? Mishandling those details gets you caught. My numbers got to add up, or I might as well start posing for a county-sponsored head shot. Leave Jesus be. Houdini’s my savior. I need a disappearing act.

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Hypothesis on an Unlocatable Body

Theorem 1: Deer season, I take the firing pin outta my shotgun to give me three extra slugs. At twenty paces, I can end a man during the time of year no one questions a gun shot, or three, in quick succession. But that ain’t the difficult part. Trajectory of bullets, pin out, and a body? Too obvious and me the likely suspect.

Theorem 2: Solve for zero: where no evidence exists, there’s no proof to solve for. That’s algebra, translation, “the solving of broken parts.” Thank you Wikipedia and Arab people everywhere.

Theorem 3: No proof equals no charges. Add together the bank foreclosure of the abandoned hog operation at Nebo and property in probate. This equals a waste dumping pit both full and idle for a month. That formula births a slurry and stench to end all inquisition. A body in that slop seals the deal. By the time the farm sells, the hog pit will be no softer than concrete.

Theorem 4: A body at rest stays at rest: Gibb Delbert. A body in motion stays in motion: me. Decomposition meets destiny. Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton.

Observable Conclusion: Done, son.

*

Check out this interview in which Baptista shares more about Primitivity.
Copies of Primitivity can be purchased from Black Lawrence Press.

hushing with Susan Woods Morse

In these days of self-isolation and sheltering in place, the word “isolation” itself has been charged in meaningful new ways. And while the charging and refreshing of language with new meaning has been one of the enterprises of poetry from the start, when life takes on this work for us in a way that startles and discomforts, it is ultimately poetry that is able to show us that what feels new is often familiar enough.

round vehicle side mirror
Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas

I’m brought to these thoughts by this week’s poem “In the Hush” by Susan Woods Morse (below) which in its own way explores isolation as both verb and noun. The speaker begins by sharing that she is “contemplating the meaning of “now”.” By doing so, she is, in fact, isolating the present moment as something to be known further. Yet, despite this focus, the speaker admits to being unable commit to the endeavor, at least not when compared to, first, a cat, and later a bird in the second stanza. This inability to get at the meaning of “now” moves us into the noun sense of the word isolation. Even with the second stanza ending as it does with admiring confidence toward a swallow, the image of something making itself distant from the speaker implies the second sense of isolation.

There’s then another compelling turn of isolation and self-awareness in the following stanzas. First, a casual walk to a bar with a partner is described. While the speaker shares that they “[tell] ourselves we want the exercise,” she goes onto confide that “but I think it is also because the phone rarely rings.” This quick admission implies an isolation felt similar to that of the first two stanzas. This poignant, passing insight is echoed in the closing stanza’s final image of a field whose “false luminescence…plays tricks” on the speaker by bringing up memories while in the present moment “in that field a cow chews its cud, indifferent / to the consuming interests of the heart.”

This closing confluence of memory and image drives home the tension of the poem. While the speaker has been making efforts to isolate the present, the same effort reflects back a sense of isolation. This isolation is simultaneously rich in the details and insights offered but also reflects the cold of “indifferent” nuances. In this way, the speaker, as much as the poem on the page, makes her way to seeing “the consuming interests of the heart” clearer.

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Susan Woods Morse

In the Hush

I sit on our deck, hands clasped behind my head,
contemplating the meaning of “now.”
I want to loll like our cat and bask in the heat
with his easy ennui,
only mine would be determined detachment,
not the same thing at all.

Instead, like him, I listen to the birds.
We both watch a swallow beat, then rest,
beat, then rest its wings against the paleness of sky.
And I think that is how to do it,
that is how to climb
a long tunnel of hollow air.

Tonight you and I will walk to the neighborhood bar,
telling ourselves we want the exercise,
but I think it is also because the phone rarely rings.
We will each drink one beer to tide us over
for the quiet walk home. We are just
occasional visitors there, unknown.

And for a long time after your snoring has begun
I will gaze through the dormer window
knowing that somewhere in a field
which has a certain false luminescence,
the green that plays tricks when I remember
being young and in the moonlight,
in that field a cow chews its cud, indifferent
to the consuming interests of the heart.

*

Susan Woods Morse’s chapbook In the Hush can be purchased from Finishing Line Press.

poetryamano project: august 2017

This week I’m sharing another installment archiving my Instagram poetry project entitled @poetryamano (poetry by hand). This account focuses on sharing poems written by hand, either in longhand or through more experimental forms such as erasures/blackout poems and found poems.

Below are highlights from August 2017. This month found me focusing on haiku on short, imagistic haiku. Also included below is a haiga inspired by the 2017 eclipse.

Be sure to check out the previous installments of the archive – and if you’re on Instagram, follow @poetryamano for the full happenings.

Enjoy these forays into variations on the short lyric!

aug 2017 1
Image description: A handwritten haiku that reads: faces shuffle through the coffee drips its bitter business.”

aug 2017 2
Image description: A handwritten haiku that reads: “at night lilacs lose their color to the moon.”

aug 2017 3
Image description: A handwritten haiku that reads: “writing across this blank paper a branch’s shadow.”

aug 2017 4
Image description: A handwritten haiku that reads: “why again why the wind fed broken glass.”

aug 2017 5
Image description: A handwritten haiku that reads: “reading scraps of Sappho years later my ears burn.”

aug 2017 6
Image description: A handwritten tanka that reads: “the gray cat’s eyes stop to take you in long before you can place them.”

aug 2017 7
Image description: A handwritten haiga that reads: “after the eclipse same trees under the same moon.”

aug 2017 8
Image description: A handwritten haiga that reads: “paper clip dash of wire hugs air to itself.”

 

 

community feature: CavanKerry Press

the_waiting_room_reader_vol_I_This particular community feature post is inspired by a recent development: I’m happy to share that I’ve been named as a member of the Board of Governors for CavanKerry Press! I’m excited to join as a new board member, along with Cornelius Eady, and help develop the already dynamic CavanKerry Press community.  Special thanks to Gabriel Cleveland and Dimitri Reyes for their enthusiasm and support in bringing me on board!

In a phone conversation with Joan Cusack Handler, publisher and senior editor of CavanKerry Press, I learned about the different ways in which the press is creating community, including sharing some of their anthologies for free online during the month of April. Both volumes of The Waiting Room Reader as well as the Words to Keep You Company anthology are being made available as free PDFs on the CavanKerry website. Writers in these anthologies include Ross Gay, PaulA Neves, Maxine Kumin, Tina Kelley, Kevin Carey, Vincent Toro, and Linda Pastan among others.

the_waiting_room_reader_vol_II_Below, I share a sample poem from The Waiting Room Reader II, “The Inheritance” by Myra Shapiro. What moves me most about this poem is how it enters into an elegiac conversation in an unexpected way. The first four lines present the logic of grapefruit-as-talking-baby doll, and then builds from there back into the reality of the moment. This quick invocation of the mother in four lines sets up the rest of the poem in which human presence is acknowledged as being available to us in the actions and habits we learn from our parents. The short lines and images allow the meditation to develop in a way that continues to be surprising precisely by not trying to be. The facts of the speaker’s experience are laid out clearly, and what makes them surprising is the juxtaposition of phrase and image. The speaker moves from the hypothetical “Mama” of the opening lines, to her own mother, to being a mother herself. Here, we see the generations pass, each different yet similar, and each evoking the next in the poem. One returns to the title’s idea of “inheritance” and sees it expanded beyond the material meaning, the speaker realizing their own inheritance in the patterns of everyday life.

Myra Shapiro

The Inheritance

Just a grapefruit
but it never fails
to make the word Mama
when I cut it,
store the half uneaten
flat against the plate,
pink meat down
so that tomorrow
when I eat it it’s as juicy
as today. Washing fruit
she taught us but never this.
She just did it. Saved
the fruit against the plate.
As I do. As I saw it done
in my daughter’s house this morning.

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Check out more from these anthologies and learn more about CavanKerry Press here.

new publication: Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy

dear-america-529x800Just a quick post to share about the release of a new anthology: Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy edited by Simmons Buntin, Elizabeth Dodd, and Derek Sheffield and published by Trinity University Press. My own poem, “American Studies” is included along with work by Jericho Brown, Victoria Chang, Camille T. Dungy, Tarfia Faizullah, Blas Falconer, Kimiko Hahn, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Linda Hogan, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Naomi Shihab Nye, Elena Passarello, Gary Soto, Pete Souza, Arthur Sze, and Kim Stafford among others. I am grateful to the editors for the work put into not only this anthology, but also the work they have been doing through their editorship over at Terrain.org where some of these pieces were originally published.

More on this anthology:

“Dear America reflects the evolution of a moral panic that has emerged in the nation. More importantly, it is a timely congress of the personal and the political, a clarion call to find common ground and conflict resolution, all with a particular focus on the environment, social justice, and climate change. The diverse collection features personal essays, narrative journalism, poetry, and visual art from more than 130 contributors–many pieces never before published–all literary reactions to the times we live in, with a focus on civic action and social change as we approach future elections.”

To celebrate the release of this anthology, Terrain.org has organized a Dear America Virtual Town Hall event series—the first to be conducted on Earth Day. Find out more about this event here.

My poem “American Studies” (below) was written shortly after the 2016 election. I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio at the time, in my last year of a PhD. I would go on to defend my dissertation on Trump’s inauguration day and walk out of said defense to find a pro-Trump rally happening on the university campus, complete with “Build the Wall” signs and a man (not a student) walking around armed with semi-automatic weapons. I share these details to provide context for the charged air that the poem was created in. An air of fear and despair, an air of survival. As a person from a marginalized community, I’ve been in survival mode all of my life, so it wasn’t that any of what I felt was new. What was new and dismaying was how overt intolerance had become, on campus, across the country, and also how shocked non-marginalized people were at the time. My hope is that through works like this anthology we continue to give voice and archive what it is like to survive.

José Angel Araguz

American Studies

November 22, 2016

My wife tells me of reading the Dear
America
 books as a child, those stories told
via the diaries of young women who lived

during difficult times in American history. In these
stories filled with suffering were the facts behind
the suffering. Her favorite involved the RMS Titanic,

the unsinkable ship that sank. I ask if
trying to imagine what it looked like was
what captivated, and she says no, says only

one book led to another, until she realized
she could never see it nor accept it.

                          ~

After the election, my friend explains he feels
he could manage here, but not his children.
He explains he spoke to their school director,

who comforted by talking about police presence. But
if there’s police, he asks, before anything happens,
what will happen when something does? American algebra:

Everything is x until proven y. Dear America,
if x represents what my friend feels thinking
about the police, what language do you imagine

he worries his children speaking publicly, and what
language are we speaking now? Show your work.

                          ~

Another friend writes: Here’s a verse I think
about a lot: And maybe the mirror of
the world will clear once again*. 
She shares

she’s been sick since the election, as I’ve
been. I imagine our voices trying to commiserate
between coughs. In physics, energy can neither be

created nor destroyed. What American physics happens here
as I read and hear her voice behind
the verse she sent? Are you, dear America,

afraid as I am that our faces will
no longer be there when the mirror clears?

* Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Copies of Dear America can be purchased here.