* singing with jim ferris

Poet of Cripples – Jim Ferris

Let me be a poet of cripples,
of hollow men and boys groping
to be whole, of girls limping toward
womanhood and women reaching back,
all slipping and falling toward the cavern
we carry within, our hidden void,
a place for each to become full, whole,
room of our own, space to grow in ways
unimaginable to the straight
and the narrow, the small and similar,
the poor, normal ones who do not know
their poverty. Look with care, look deep.
Know that you are a cripple too.
I sing for cripples; I sing for you.

*

beauty is a verbOne of the highlights of teaching composition this summer has been engaging with excerpts from the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. There is a wealth of great poetry in this anthology, which includes the work of Ona Gritz, Hal Sirowitz, and the writer of this week’s poem, Jim Ferris.

What I love about this week’s poem, “Poet of Cripples,” is how Ferris takes a singular experience and sings it in such a way that it becomes personal for the reader. The stakes engaged with via the poem quickly become familiar; the speaker’s intimate address of Look with care, look deep, is in the tradition of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Poetry becomes, for Ferris as it was for Whitman, a way to access our hidden void and push ourselves to what we would become.

This poem’s momentum makes me think of another Whitman-influenced poet, Pablo Neruda, specifically his lines at the end of “Alianza (Sonata)” where so much intangible and conceptual feeling is evoked through language that is felt in the body:

Screenshot_2016-07-14-20-51-34-1

…I feel your lap’s heat and the transit of your kisses
creating fresh swallows in my dreams.

At times the fate of your tears rises
like age up to my forehead, and there
the waves keep breaking, destroyed by death:
its movement is damp, decayed, final.

Both poets meet at the place where language and the body meet to affect each other, like waves making and unmaking the shore.

Happy singing!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reasons (not) to Dance by Jose Angel Araguz

Reasons (not) to Dance

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends August 07, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

* learning to Howl with Allen Ginsberg

Had to read and discuss Allen Ginsberg’s Howl this week in one of my classes.  Kinda went like this:

* Angelheadedwhatnow? *
* From Howl to Huh? *

I have gone back and forth on the poem Howl since I first read it at eighteen.  I shared with my classmates how I went to San Diego on spring break once and spent five days straight following this routine: wake up, do tai chi, read Howl aloud.

All.  Three.  Parts.

I was young and weird, to say the least.

The whole time I did this I felt like I was throwing myself upon the poem and asking: why is this considered such a great poem?  what can I learn from it?  did Ginsberg really have as much peyote/sex as he says he did?

Borges said that Walt Whitman the man spent his writing life wanting to be more and more like the Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass.  Both Ginsberg and Whitman were larger than life.

Both were also very diplomatic and American.  Our professor shared with us that, while in Spain, he would run into people who, though they knew nothing of American poetry, they knew Howl.

And that’s Ginsberg accomplishment.  Not everybody loves The Wasteland, but it is a mountain between Leaves of Grass and Howl (this is in keeping with American poetry being a mountain range which is something I realize now may only make sense in my head).

Howl is one of those poems that is in the blood of American poetry like it or not, it is that family member that crashes the party with great stories but bad breath.

I won’t excerpt Howl here – you gotta take that ride yourself, y’all – but instead will share a poem that has much of what I love about Ginsberg – the humor and the heart.

**

A Supermarket in California – Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!–and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be
lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Berkeley, 1955

***

Happy disappearing!

Jose

* Sharon Olds, newspapers & the friday influence

This week on the Influence: Sharon Olds!

Just read through Olds’ latest book, Stag’s Leap, a powerful collection of poems – for which she recently was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize – centering on the story of her divorce.

The poems take on the separation with the nerve and lyrical litheness that are characteristic of Olds.  (Also: at one point she parts the Red Sea – seriously: check that out!)

I chose the poem below because it embodies much of what I admire in her skill as a poet.  There is the opening up of a moment, the digging into the details in words that put the subject – in this case, handling the newspaper – right in your hands, words like mineral-odored and greyish speckle.  She does it all with a straightforward energy that takes you along for the ride, evoking every nuance of the emotion felt.

There is a great awe in her work – a sense of awe of the world, of being a part of it, and being able to put it into words.  Few can go to this place of awe like she does.

As an American poet, I feel indebted to Sharon Olds for how she manages to stay grounded while still taking flight.  I see her in line with Whitman as well as Elizabeth Bishop – all poets of finding and feeling exuberance where you don’t expect it.

*periodico*
*periodico*

On Reading a Newspaper for the First Time as an Adult – Sharon Olds

By evening, I am down to the last,
almost weightless, mineral-odored
pages of the morning paper, and as I am
letting fall what I have read,
and creasing what’s left lengthwise, the crackly
rustle and the feathery grease remind me that
what I am doing is what my then husband
did, that sitting waltz with the paper,
undressing its layers, blowsing it,
opening and closing its delicate bellows,
folding till only a single column is un-
taken in, a bone of print then
gnawed from the top down, until
the layers of the paper-wasp nest lay around him by the
couch in a greyish speckle dishevel.  I left him to it,
the closest I wanted to get to the news was to
start to sleep with him, slowly, while he was
reading, the clouds of printed words
gradually becoming bedsheets around us.
When he left me, I thought, If only I had read
the paper, 
and vowed, In two years,
I will have the Times delivered,
so here
I am, leaning back on the couch, in the smell of ink’s
oil, its molecules like chipped bits of
ammonites suspended in shale,
lead’s dust silvering me.
I have a finger, now, in the pie –
count me as a reader of the earth’s gossip.
I weep to feel how I love to be like
my guy.  I taste what he tastes each morning
without moving my lips.

***

Happy tasting!

Jose

* photo found here