revisiting spiderman

1605831838_351eab12ed_bAs the release date of my next poetry collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press), approaches, I want to quickly revisit one of the key poems from my book Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press).

Below is the piece “Spiderman Hitches a Ride” along with a short essay about the origins of the piece. The short essay was originally written for the Tahoma Literary Review blog when this piece was published in issue 5.

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Spiderman Hitches a Ride – José Angel Araguz

My mother compares me to Spiderman, and for a second I like it.

I mean, it’s what I’ve always wanted: to be viewed in the glory of courage and costume; to be super tough and just, a city like a little brother needing me to battle bullies and take back lunch money, a villain defining me by default as a hero, his crooked eyebrows and overheated plans carnival mirror to my calm and valiant stance; to push out of paper bag clothes; to leave my shoes untied, their mouths open in awe; to slip on the muscles and dreams of tomorrow’s headlines; to leave a woman breathless, with a single kiss amazed, her heart pounding at the thought of being in love with a man – in tights – who leaves her without a name or number with which to follow him into the fire.

He is like me, my mother says, because he too wants to do good things for people, but he gets beat up, can’t find a job and his girl ends up dating someone else. He saves people’s lives but is always flaco y vago, vagabond skinny with luck and life.

Is this what it meant for her when at seventeen I boarded a plane and soared out of this city, where if she couldn’t see into my head she could at least put a roof over it. Those years I disappeared into the phone, and was ok in Santa Fe, ok in San Diego, ok in New York but still short and small in words.

M’ijo, no te preocupes, don’t worry. She smiles, then slips off her seatbelt to reach over and wrap an arm around my neck, the other dropping a twenty into my lap. The green paper is wrinkled in waves that shudder and blur as I blink fast, trying once again to be heroic.

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On “Spiderman Hitches a Ride”
originally published in Tahoma Literary Review issue 5)

This piece is part of my collection, Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press), whose pieces deal primarily with what it meant for me to grow up in and out of South Texas.

The first draft of “Spiderman” was written during the summer of 2004 during which I lived in a house that had no electricity. The house belonged to a dear friend of mine who offered me a place to stay when he heard I was coming back to my hometown, Corpus Christi. “There’s no electricity,” he warned, “but you’ll have plenty of room to sit and write.” Having no job prospects that summer, I happily took him up on it.

Without a job, there was plenty of time to write as well. I spent most days that summer selling my personal library one sad stack at a time at a used bookstore and using the few dollars raised from that to buy coffee. I would take over a table at a café and write and write and write. At night, I would make my way over to the dollar movies and watch just about anything just to be in the air conditioned theater. Corpus Christi summers stay in the high 90s, low 100s, on average, with the nights carrying the heat via humidity.

That summer, I watched a lot of bad movies, keeping my notebook open on my lap and my pen to paper. I blame that summer for the fondness that remains for the train wreck of a movie, Troy, lines from which still come to me when thinking about the Iliad. Similarly, I must’ve watched Spiderman 2 close to a hundred times. Writing in the dark of the theater felt like dreaming; the various narratives and worlds around me began to blur. Peter Parker’s bumbling yet charming bad luck never felt too far off from my own. And while I may never have saved a city from destruction, only myself (barely), you never saw Peter open a letter from Sallie Mae and keep down his lunch.

Going back and forth in (anti)heroic comparisons at night kept me writing at a time when each day I woke to the reality of being young, college-educated, and broke. Broken, too, my ego, my sense of self and of the future. Only poetry braced me; and only family buoyed me.

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See you Friday!

José

some influence & book news!

influence news

This month marks five years of blogging on The Friday Influence! Over the years, this space has been a great source of community for me. Thank you to all of you who stop by regularly or just pop in at random looking for a poem. I continue learning much from interacting with you, either in the comments or elsewhere, including my Instagram poetry project poetryamano.

As the Influence enters its fifth year, I’d like to go further and reach out to readers and fellow writers in the hopes of having the blog be a bit more interactive. Above, you’ll see that there is a new “Submissions” tab with information on current calls. You’ll see that there are two specific calls, one for those interested in participating in a microreview & interview, and one for a montly haiku/tanka feature.

For the haiku/tanka feature, I’d like to do a monthly post of a variety of haiku and tanka, in whatever variations you are inspired to write. From traditional, nature-centered three line poems, to one line haiku, prose haiku or tanka, or even a blackout / erasure haiku or tanka. Check the Submissions tab for how to send your words and images.

book news

mask with frameIn other news, we’re about a month away from the release of my next book, Small Fires, which will be published by FutureCycle Press. As a bit of a preview, I am sharing the artwork that will be incorporated into the final cover, an ink painting by Andrea Schreiber.

This painting was inspired by the poem “Luchadores” (originally published in Waxwing) which I share below. Thank you all again for a great five years and stay tuned for the release of Small Fires in May!

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Luchadores

after Cathy Park Hong

They were the only men in the house,
and stood firm, one hand raised
saying farewell, the other idle.
I’d make each bed, wash dishes,
set chairs back in place, then dig
under the sink where their masked faces
waited to be pulled out. I fought
with them all afternoon, took turns
playing villain, playing good,
letting each one win, then starting
over. The light in the garage apartment
turned all summer, flickered
light and dark across the floor
as on the leaves outside.

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Happy anniversarying!

José

 

poems, news, & audio!

Just a quick post to share that my poem “Of Breaking” can be read and heard on Toe Good Poetry’s site!

This poem is featured in my upcoming second collection, Small Fires (FutureCycle Press), which I am happy to share has a release date of May 22nd. I’m really looking forward to its release.

I am also happy to share that the audio from my reading with Rochelle Hurt and Linwood Rumney in November at the University of Cincinnati’s Elliston Room is available to be listened to. In these tracks, you can hear me read from Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press), Reasons (not) to Dance (FutureCycle Press), and  The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks).

Check it out the reading here!

See you Friday!

José

* new work & nomination!

Just a quick post to share that my poem, “Cazar Means to Hunt Not to Marry,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by December Magazine. This poem is part of my second collection, Small Fires, forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

This poem can be read at December Magazine’s site along with the other stellar nominees here.

Thank you to December Magazine for the support and community!

See you Friday!

José

* new work online & monopoem giveaway!

Just a quick post to announce some recent publications available online & to give a small reminder of my current Monopoem Giveaway:

!) I’m happy to announce that my poems “On Being Called Jorge” and “Freckles” are featured in the current issue of The Indianola Review! This issue features work by Angela Morales, E. Kristin Anderson, & Lena Khalaf Tuffaha among other great writers. Check out the rest of the issue here.

@) I’m also happy to share that Crab Creek Review was kind enough to feature my poem “Alien” on their blog! This poem along with “On Being Called Jorge” are both in my upcoming collection, Small Fires, forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

#) Lastly, I am doing a MONOPOEM GIVEAWAY as a thank you to all of you who read my blog. In order to participate, simply leave a comment below stating your interest in receiving a monopoem. I will keep track of who comments and will pick winners at random. The announcement of winners will be on Wednesday, December 14th! Feel free to comment on this post for a chance to win.

A monopoem is a poem and a drawing on a folded sheet of paper. Essentially one of the most mini of self publications. This is the second I’m doing in this series. Here’s a peek at this season’s cover:

2016-12-08-10-06-12

Be sure to comment  below and enter by Wednesday!

Abrazos,

José

* Q&A up at Carve Magazine blog!

Happy to share this recent Q&A session focusing on my poem “Hails from Corpus Christi” from my forthcoming collection Small Fires (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

In this short session, I discuss this poem in terms of “soundscape” and measure as well as go into some of the themes of the upcoming collection.

There might also be a brief reference to the Ninja Turtles.

Just sayin’.

Special thanks to Ellie Francis Breivogel for her insightful questions as well as to everyone at Carve Magazine!

“Hails from Corpus Christi” will be published in CM’s next issue which is available for pre-order!

Happy hailing!

José

* new post @ North American Review blog!

Just a quick note to share a post I did for the North American Review blog.

The post, “Happiness and the Tough Stuff,” has me sharing some background about my poem “Stitched” which was published in the Summer 2016 issue of NAR (I have provided the poem below for reference).

“Stitched” will be in my second full length poetry collection, Small Fires, forthcoming in 2017 from FutureCycle Press. It’s a good example of the measure and subject matter of the collection.

Special thanks to Matt Manley who provided the awesome artwork that accompanies my blog post! Thanks also to everyone at the North American Review for this opportunity! Copies of the issue can be bought at NAR’s site.

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Stitched – José Angel Araguz

Shopping after the accident,
my aunt said: See anything
you like and we can take it,
just have you mother open
her stomach there, then pointed
as my mother laughed,
and I recalled the black
smile stitched into
her side, the lines to me
not healing her, holding
her shut instead, like the door
of the hospital room
I was kept out of when
she wasn’t awake – the accident
from the other night,
how her boyfriend insisted
that he wasn’t drunk
and drove her car into
a tree, how she had felt
safe with him before,
how she really needed that,
looked to each man in her life
for the father she’d lost faith in,
for the man her father failed
to be so early on she
was a child when she left,
how her boyfriend now wouldn’t
visit, had come out of the wreck
unharmed while she kept falling
out of herself – all of this needing
to be held in, sewn up
so she would not hurt,
and me then not wanting
to want anything,
so she would not hurt.

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See you Friday!

José

* new chapbook: The Divorce Suite!

Divorce Suite Cover

Just a quick post to announce the release of my latest chapbook, The Divorce Suite, published by Red Bird Chabooks! Copies can be ordered here.

This chapbook centers on a series of poems inspired by my divorce back in 2010. It takes on the idea of divorce as a fulcrum into change, the narrative itself playing out in various forms: from makeshift sonnets, tanka sequences, and the lyric/prose hybrid of the title poem, to the mutated sestina that closes the book, divorce is seen as both event and momentum.

These ideas are embodied in the following lines from Paterson by William Carlos Williams which serve as an epigraph for the chapbook:

Divorce is
the sign of knowledge in our time,
divorce! divorce!

                         with the roar of the river
forever in our ears…

The particular river that runs through this chapbook is the Willamette, as much of the telenovela that was my first marriage played out in Eugene, Oregon.

One of the reasons I’m especially excited about this project is that it brings together a specific sequence of poems around this subject. While the title poem and a small selection of other poems from this chapbook will be featured in my next collection, Small Fires (due out in 2017), this chapbook presents its own particular reading experience. The difference is similar to having a radio edit versus hearing the full version of a song.

Special thanks to Eric Hove & Sarah Hayes for being great to work with as well as to everyone at Red Bird Chapbooks! RBC’s chapbooks are hand-crafted art objects, making this publication all the more special.

Red Bird Chapbooks is planning a print run of 100 copies, so please hurry and snag a copy!

Happy Red Birding!

José

* tom murphy & moving adelante

tom murphy

The poem above comes from Tom Murphy’s chapbook horizon to horizon. One of the things I’m moved by in the poem is the way the form mimics the conceptual space the speaker is contemplating. Standing before the  mirror on the “First mother’s day without ma,” the speaker positions themselves in a new place, a blank page of sorts. What follows then is the completion of a simile started on one side of the page/mirror, a simile that finds the speaker detailing into “gnawed” and “cracked” imagery, feeling age as sunlight through a “clapboard barn,” as well as feeling it down to the earth. From new awareness to the complicated meaning of awareness, this lands on the page in a visceral way.

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I want to say a thank you to everyone for their kind words and good wishes in regards to the news of my second poetry collection, Small Fires, being accepted for publication by FutureCycle Press. The tentative release date is May 2017.

To further celebrate, here is a poem from the upcoming book (originally published in Luna Luna Magazine). I share it specifically because, as with Tom’s poem above, it takes on the theme of mothers and their impact on our lives. My own mother’s story is one of survival and persistence. One of her favorite words in our talks is adelante, a fact that I’m forever charmed by given that the word contains her name within.

Quinceañera – José Angel Araguz

The women of the house shook her from sleep,
and began to serenade, trying to mark
the air of another rite that seemed to come

too soon, the song her father should have sung
instead of barking, running her off, a song
with the momentum of a hand ready to skip

a stone across water, a hand which would
fall away soon as the song was done,
but not before a stone danced,

lifting and lifting off the face of water,
each time as if it’d never drop – past midnight,
the women sang, without ceremony,

without food, without a sense of how
to ready a girl to skip into the current
of her life, could only sing,

their voices cracked and strained, trying
not to wake her son who slept beside her,
a son who would grow up and dream of the night

these voices broke the air and raised a song
for the little girl his mother was,
for the woman she now had to become.

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Happy becoming!

José

* sharing some news & some tanka!

Just a quick post to officially announce that my second full length collection of poetry, Small Fires, has just been accepted for publication in 2017 from FutureCycle Press. This collection will feature the poems “Joe” and “El Rio” among others.

FutureCycle are also the same good people who published my prose poem/flash fiction chapbook, Reasons (not) to DanceI’m excited to be working with them again. Stay tuned for further news come 2017.

To celebrate the Small Fires news, I thought I’d share my contribution to the Journeys into Tanka project that’s going on via the Tanka Society of America Facebook page. Poets were asked to share a tanka as well as some words on their journey into the form, what it means for them and how. Readers are welcome to respond in the comments with their own tanka and/or tanka-related prose.

Special thanks to Marilyn Hazelton, TSA president and editor of red lights, for the invitation to contribute!

tsa journeys

See you Friday!

José