Last week I spoke of being panicked. This week’s P-word: pummeled. It’s how I’m feeling at least, typing this out this Friday morning. The word describes the world as well, no? With government officials seriously delaying aid for people while corporations get tax breaks, billionaires billion on, and so many people suffer from the pandemic, whether from the virus itself or from the peril and strain the pandemic has placed us under in our respective lives. Here are some bright spots despite it all:
Early this week I participated in a Drink + Draw virtual session hosted by Flux Factory. Ani and I logged in and did some figure drawing. Models took 30 minutes each working through poses in their respective spaces. Flux Factory is a great art community space based in Queens. Here’s info on the next session which will take place in January.
The generous Gillian Parish has just published a new edition of her spacecraftproject. Check out poetry by Vince Guerra & David Maduli here — & do click around the site for some healthy, illuminating spacing out 🙂
Lastly, this week I participated in a final publication-focused virtual session with my ENG 375 Poetry Workshop students. Part of the final assignment for this course was revising two poems to be included in a digital class anthology. The anthology, entitled tending to the roots, also includes their art contributions. It was an honor to design this anthology as well as build with them and hold space for each other’s poetic selves this semester.
Check out tending to the roots: an ENG 375 class anthology below:
Posting a little later than I’d like this Friday due to staying up late panicked and overworked–which has been technically the norm, ha. While I feel awfully self-conscious just saying it aloud (even here) I thought I’d just say it because we can’t just share the good stuff in life, as doing so wouldn’t be representative of all of who I am.
Moving forward, here are a few highlights from this week:
For my comrade bookworms: Ani was just introduced to The StoryGraph an indie, Black-owned alternative to Goodreads. It’s quite pleasing and simple to navigate! She was able to import all her Goodreads info and it gave her what she terms “the sexiest page of stats” she’s ever seen.
Here’s an article entitled “9 Ways to Make Long-Haul Quarantine More Sustainable” in which disabled writer and activist, Alyssa MacKenzie, shares tips that have helped her this year. She does a great job sharing tips via the lens of disability and chronic illness (shout out to my spoonie and chronically ill folks out there!) in a way that speaks to everyone. I appreciate MacKenzie’s sharing of personal experience and insight that centers disability and chronic illness first. I feel like the pandemic has been a HUGE privilege check for people, with the narrative of “inconvenience” being dominant and dangerous. MacKenzie shares some of the “unique skill set” held by those who are “no stranger to being ‘stuck’ at home.”
Finally, this week was the last week of classes here at Suffolk U. I had a blast with my First Year Writing students and am proud of all the work they did thinking through the complex ideas in their reading and writing on important issues at the intersection of literature and politics.
Also, it was an honor to work and build with my Poetry Workshop students, a rare group of dynamic and insightful individuals. So proud of the breakthroughs they made in their own work and in their relationship with language. We’re even putting together a class anthology!!! One of our last sessions involved writing centos in class. I share the one I wrote below along with a meme by Kenning JP García that checks any airs one may have around the form, ha.
José Angel Araguz
there are ruins we witness beneath a scarf of cirrus
when night throws itself against layered lost worlds where some terrible mistake has been made —
here, I am graceless
alone in the myth of one life, I will have turned into long, quiet rivers my daily transformation
which is like unbuckling
Lines above sourced from: Oliver de la Paz, Major Jackson, Saeed Jones, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Jo Bang, Kaveh Akbar, Tarfia Faizullah, Catie Rosemurgy, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Ross Gay
Just a quick post to share about two virtual poetry readings I’ll be a part of this weekend!
Friday, October 9th @8pm EST: “A Virtual Reading to Celebrate Adeeba Shahid Talukder’s ‘Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved’ featuring José Angel Araguz, r. erica doyle, and Adeeba Shahid Talukder“
One of the big changes in my life that I was unable to share about during an academic year full of transition (including the present pandemic-related interruption) is how it’s been going during my first year as Editor-in-chief of Salamander Magazine. While we are currently in production for our 50th issue–and also running our annual Fiction Contest through the end of the month–I thought I would take a moment to share a bit about the first issue experience.
I am proud of the final product on a number of levels. This issue contains amazing work from poets Naomi Ayala, Francesca Bell, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Caylin Capra-Thomas, Emily Rose Cole, Brian Clifton, Jackie Craven, Chard deNiord, Alexa Doran, Moira Linehan, Nora Iuga, Adeeba Shahid Talukder, Madeleine Wattenberg, and many more. On the creative nonfiction front, this issue features pieces by Marcos Gonsalez and Rochelle Hurt, while on the fiction front this issue features stories by our 2019 Fiction Contest winner Christina Leo as well as Michael Howerton who placed second, a flash fiction by Russell Dame, and an excerpt from David Maloney’s novel-in-stories Barker House (Bloomsbury). The issue rounds out with reviews of poetry collections by Lola Haskins, Brett Foster, Fady Joudah, and Tom Sleigh as well as a short story collection by Hadley Moore.
Another outstanding part of this issue is the art portfolio by our featured artist, Karla Rosas (KARLINCHE). Her piece “La Puerta Negra” is on the cover. I’d been a fan of her art for about a year before getting this gig. Especially this being my first issue at the helm, I wanted to feature art that hits me on the intersection where I and many others exist, where the personal meets the political, and shows how one can’t be seen without the other. I feel the Latinx community has had a number of awful and unjust narratives hanging over us. Featuring Latinx artists creating strong work in the face of such narratives is vital in pushing back against those narratives.
We had the issue 49 out mid-December and were able to celebrate in February with a reading featuring two of our contributors, David Maloney and Moira Linehan, as well as acclaimed fiction writer, Sonya Larson, who joined this year as a member of our Advisory Board.
David Maloney: Image description – A man standing at a podium reading from a book.
Sonya Larson: Image description – A woman standing at a podium.
Moira Linehan: Image description – A woman standing at a podium.
Last thing I’ll share is that I’ve had a great time getting to teach this issue this past Spring in my introduction to creative writing course. Students have enjoyed interacting with these pieces of contemporary literature and learned a lot from them. I enjoy teaching the journal both to share my enthusiasm about the work but also as a way to share insights about the editing process.
Thank you to all the contributors and all our staff and readers who have made the success of this first issue possible!
To further celebrate this first issue, I’ve created a cento based on lines from poems in this issue. Expect another issue-related post when the next one comes out. For now, enjoy the fun collage/homage below!
by José Angel Araguz
(a cento based on lines from Salamander Magazine, issue no. 49)
The heart is a wormhole—
limited to the path
you never had to become.
But grief’s like a cat, leaving then returning
our eyes lilac-bearded, our toes-daisy rich.
Today I will polish my own damned self.
I can begin to believe that you won’t come back again. Listen,
I saw their ghosts slither with the wind,
with the blood and birth. Popcorn-sad,
I step over stones and believe
the answer was in the moths
watching from above with small black eyes.
I’ve been absent from this space for about a month now. Lots of good, necessary upheaval in my life. The recent passing of W.S. Merwin has stirred me out of silence, however, not just here but in life. His work always inspires a kind of active silence in me, a listening that’s helped on and off the page.
I have written about Merwin’s work a number of times here. In a previous post I shared these words from a journal entry where I had copied by hand Merwin’s “A Letter to Su T’ung Po”:
I heard Merwin read this poem a week after filing for divorce from my first marriage. Ani was with me , both of us full of questions. This poem is a river in itself. The last line crosses centuries in a gasp, like one stepping away from the face of a river.
Similar to when I wrote these words, my life’s been carried forward on necessary currents – all of which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve accepted an Assistant Professor position at Suffolk University. This new job also has me taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief of Salamander Magazine. Needless to say, I’m shocked at my good fortune and grateful for the opportunity to join the dynamic community at Suffolk and contribute on a number of levels.
As can be imagined, a move like this is bittersweet. I do find myself in a similar place as when I was filing for a divorce, and when I saw Merwin in person. However turbulent life was for me then, hearing Merwin do his thing – his nuanced, metaphysically and emotionally complex thing – afforded me some calm. His example, then and now, braces me for the good work ahead.
While I have written about the poem below before, the poem remains a favorite. I also share it because it’s the poem I had in mind while I taught during the teaching portion of my campus visit at Suffolk and I made a passing reference to writing in syllabics and the path forged by Merwin. Looking at this poem now and considering his passing, I’m moved by how the lack of punctuation has me as a reader coming closer to the page. That in itself, bringing another closer to language, is an accomplishment in itself.
Thank you, Merwin, for bringing us closer to words.
Youth – W.S. Merwin
Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for
or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I
have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me
as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let
me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I
began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already
part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you