heartlines

National Poetry Month is winding down and its got me remembering myself a bit. Been some deep conversations throughout–with students, fellow writers, friends old and new–as well as some struggle. I’m grateful for all of it, to still be here.

As NPM wraps up, I’d like to share my recent publication in another of Oxidant | Engine’s BoxSet Series, this time with an excerpt from a recent project entitled Heartlines. This has me returning to a similar mode as my chapbook of lyrical aphorisms, The Book of Flight (which can be read for free at Essay Press’ site). As you’ll note in the sample below, I’m riffing on various ways of thinking about the heart, life, death, and everything in between.

I’m honored to be included in Oxidant | Engine’s recent BoxSet Series alongside some dynamic writers including: Mary Buchinger, Kathryn Cowles, Ernest O. Ògúnyemí, Devon Balwit, and Ananda Lima. Check out the sample below and then check out the rest of the volume. I’ve been making my way through it at night and keep finding more and more to admire in this confluence of writers.


José Angel Araguz

from Heartlines

A page without marks became the color of my heart.

Wrist hurting and weary even as I write this, what stubborn knocking of my fist, my heart.

The heart is a window on a summer night you do not know is open until you feel it.


The heart is a shoe: it grows tattered over time, worn down by its footfall that keeps trudging forward into each night.

The heart is a phone: it cannot speak but words come and go from it, not things it says but others, a conversation around the heart clutched and answered, only the side of someone else’s face for intimacy.

You touch my arm, and the set of toy teeth inside me I call a heart is set off chattering. All my life I’ve never heard this shudder and jolt. My heart’s all motion and gnash now, all kick and snap—a toy, but all bite.


The heart upset is like a door left open, banging away during a storm. Against the house. Against the hinges. The other side against the wind. Each slam and heave, one word.

Voices from another room, the heart works like that, muffled, going on with its own business, you can’t make out the details but feel what is meant.

My heart pounds and pounds, like anything else testing its usefulness—hammer, fist at the door, rain against the sea.


Happy hearting!

* the 2016 End of Year Reading!

Time once again for my end of year reading here on the Influence! This year has left me with much to be grateful for, from readings in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas (Del Mar, TAMUCC, & Moody High – órale!) to getting to be the Visiting Writer at Adelphi University’s Alice Hoffman Young Writers Retreat as well as participate in my second CantoMundo.

I am especially grateful for the journals and presses and their respective editors that have worked with me this year and helped bring more of my work out into the world. Lastly, I want to say thanks to everyone who reads this blog as well as to the community of writers, readers, and friends (three words for the same thing, no?) that have reached out to me regarding my work. When things get dark, as they often did in 2016, community and words bring me back to light.

book of flight cover     Divorce Suite pic IG

For this end of year reading, I have chosen selections from my two chapbook publications of 2016, The Book of Flight (Essay Press) and The Divorce Suite (Red Bird Chapbooks).

From The Book of Flight (which can be read for free on the Essay Press site) I am reading pages 2 through 5. From The Divorce Suite (available for purchase from Red Bird Chapbooks), I am reading the poems below. I learned a lot working with both presses bringing these projects to fruition. Special thanks especially to Andy Fitch, Aimee Harrison, and Maria Anderson of Essay Press, and Eric Hove and Sarah Hayes of Red Bird Chapbooks. And a warm thanks to Pam Dick for writing the intro essay to Flight and selecting it for publication!

 

*

The Particular Life – José Angel Araguz

The oak chest holds the scent
of the tree it was made from,
everything placed inside
comes out thick with the smell:
traces on blankets, letters,
notebooks that even closed
show at the edge of the pages
the blot and blurring
of fine lines, a photo
I’d neglected to
rip up with the rest
after the divorce, a shot
where I stand younger
than I am now, smiling,
and then only half-way,
the rest of my face pulled in
as if inhaling deep,
taking in the particular
life that passes
no matter the effort
to shut it away.

*

Rose Song – José Angel Araguz

“…the rose is out of town” – E. Dickinson

The rose is out of town,
and the wine has moved away.
The wedding ring won’t glint,
the river won’t let it.
Perfumes won’t call me back.
The candle’s on a walk,
lets shadow fill the shelves.

Our secrets tell themselves,
while worries stay to talk.
The wedding dress is slack.
The coat hooks comfort it.
Lost buttons try to hint,
there is no other way.
The rose is out of town.

*

Happy flighting and suiteing!

José

* celebrating with sei shonagon & yahia lababidi

In celebration of the release of my digital chapbook, The Book of Flight (Essay Press), this week’s Influence will be focused on work that I feel is in spirit with the project.

Hyakuninisshu_062First up is Sei Shonagon, who I wrote about in October. I had reason to return to her lists in The Pillow Book recently, and continue to marvel at the surprise-charged prose:

16. Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster

Sparrows feeding their young. To pass a place where babies are playing. To sleep in a room where some incense has been burnt. To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of raindrops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

The cumulative effect of sensory details is at turns charming and striking. It becomes a matter of where the writer leaves you: When the “wind blows against the shutters” it takes one’s breath as well as the narrative away.

signpostsAnother writer whose work has meant more and more to me in the past few months is Yahia Lababidi. Here’s a sample from his collection, Signposts to Elsewhere: aphorisms & other tailored thoughts:

The personal made universal is art’s truth.

Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.

The irony of the writer is that of a private person in a public profession.

Venom poisons most the people who carry it.

What I see as the “tailoring” of the aphorisms and thoughts in this collection is something akin to a fingerprint. Throughout, Lababidi does a great job of tempering the didactic and distant nature of the aphorism with a bit of down to earth humor and wisdom.

Here’s another sample:

Dreams: what get us through the night, and oftentimes the day.

Tattoo: graffiti on a masterpiece.

Disgust can be constructive as a spark igniting transformation.

It is not lovers who compose poetry, but Love.

This last line especially speaks to me about the nature of what it means to be a writer, that there is a purpose beyond ink on page at practice through us.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out with kind words about The Book of Flight (available for free online)! Thank you also to everyone who has shared their thoughts about Everything We Think We HearIt’s been a big couple of months for me. Thank you for reading, y’all!

Happy tailoring!

José