turn, volta, turn

Some quick thoughts and sharings from this week:

  • As many of you know, I’m a board member of CavanKerry Press, and I’m excited about the work done by this literary organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve managed to maintain their staff and publishing schedule, while conducting various community outreach events virtually. They are currently doing a fundraiser which I encourage y’all to check out at their site along with their current collections. They also have some of their literary anthologies available for free electronically.
  • One win for the week was getting the laundry done just before the machines were replaced in our building. And when I say just before, I mean JUST before–like, I came back to get things out of the dryer and the washers were gone. And if this doesn’t seem like a win to you, we’re not living in the same pandemic.
  • Spent some time discussing Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “What lips my lips have kissed…” with my students this week. I shared my would-be-in-conflict-if-it-wasn’t-me ideas of needing to look into the tradition of the sonnet while also subverting it for their own contemporary ends–like seriously let’s shut down the tradition of sonnets centered around the male gaze and the needing to sound clever and Shakespeare-like and have sonnets about chanclas!!! One student contributed to the spirit of this by making us aware of a volta before the volta–volta meaning the turn in argument that a traditional sonnet has. While the standard volta happens at the line “Thus in the winter” where the poem’s image parallel of the lone speaker and lone tree comes into play, there is what I would term a minor turn earlier at the line “And in my heart…” where the speaker goes from looking outside to looking at what she feels inside. Check it out and see what you think 🙂

Been sharing the meme below with students. I share it with you hoping that if you feel called out, know that you matter. Let’s keep keeping it together together.

A meme with a crowd of Spidermans on one side and one solo Spiderman on the other, each are pointing across at each other in recognition. Over the crowd it says “Students barely keeping it together this semester” and over the solo it says “Professor barely keeping it together this semester.”

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

* new work up at tahoma literary review

Just a quick note to announce the release of Tahoma Literary Review’s fifth issue which includes my piece “Spiderman Hitches a Ride.” The good folks at TLR also allowed me to write a blog post giving some background to this piece: On ‘Spiderman…’

This issue also features a phenomenal lineup, including work from Kenzie Allen, Martha Silano, Lito Velázquez, and James White. A online copy of the issue can be found here, along with instructions on how to order a print copy and how to download a free e-reader edition.

Special thanks to editors Kelly Davio, Joe Ponepinto, and Yi Shun Lai for all the hard work that went into putting together an awesome issue!

See you Friday!

Jose