• Robert L. Giron

Issue 147

In this issue, work by

  • Kathleen Frank,

  • Francisco Aragón,

  • Matthew Feeney, and

  • Jacqueline Jules



Kathleen Frank


Wild West Summer

oil on canvas, 61.5 x 49.5

Copyright © 2021 by Kathleen Frank.



Abiquiu Country

Copyright © 2021 by Kathleen Frank.



About the Artist

Santa Fe landscape artist Kathleen Frank, raised in Northern California, has a BA in Design from San Jose State University, a Masters of Art from Penn State and has studied woodcarving and printing. In Pennsylvania, she taught printmaking and costume design and co-founded the Printmakers Studio Workshop of Central Pennsylvania.


Frank shifted to painting, seeking light and pattern in Pennsylvania farms, California scenery from mountains to sea and now the unique landscapes of the Southwest. Publications include Southwest Art, Western Art Collector and The Santa Fe Travel Insider and exhibitions include Jane Hamilton Fine Art, Desert Caballeros Western Museum and the Susquehanna Art Museum. Collections: Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Pattee and Paterno Library at Penn State.



Francisco Aragón


Interview


An interview with Francisco Aragón [FA] author of After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020) and Robert L. Giron [RLG].


RLG:

Normally, I don’t read introductions to most books, but as I do with most books, I flipped through the pages before beginning and saw the mixture of history, culture, and language, all in a dialogue, with Rubén Darío in situations and events. Boy I’m glad I did because it set the book in motion. I say this to ask your reaction to the phrase: “a poet’s poet” as it relates to your collection.


FA:

A fiction writer friend recently admitted to not being able to finish Ullyses. My reaction to that was that perhaps this is a work that poets appreciate more than narrative-driven fiction writers. In that vein, one of the muses of After Rubén is Jack Spicer—someone I might describe as “a poet’s poet,” and by that I mean a poet who’s interested in exploring, playing with, testing the limits of, language; a poet who’s less preoccupied with pre-determined subject matter. The title of the book is a riff off of Spicer’s book, After Lorca. A secondary reaction is that my book does seem to be an homage to various poetic ancestors, from different linguistic traditions. So I’m entirely fine with that term being applied to one aspect of my book. I welcome it.


RLG:

Having said “a poet’s poet,” I found some poems that were personal and perhaps not with intense literary reference to other works. How did you reconcile the variety of poems in this collection?


FA:

And yet, After Rubén, with the ten Darío versions interspersed throughout the collection, is my “Nicaragua” book (just as my first book, Puerta del Sol, was my “Spain” book). Another related thread is that a number of the poems explore my, shall we say, complex relationship with my father, who passed away in 2018, and who was not really a part of my life while growing up. The poet-critic Emily Pérez noticed and captured this strand in her review for Rhino.


RLG:

I also ask this perhaps to get to the kernel of the intent of the book. I’m not saying that one needs to have an intent in mind before writing a book because quite frankly I feel that often the writer/artist may not know that himself until the “creation” is before him. What is your take on this?


FA:

Each of the forty-seven poems that make up the poetry portion of After Rubén were not written with the explicit intent of residing within one book. In fact, a number of the poems, especially in section one, were poems from my MA thesis at UC Davis in 2000. One of my thesis advisors there, a scholar of Irish literature, astutely observed that perhaps my “Nicaragua” poems merited their own volume. And then there is the poem in the book (“1985“) whose first draft was written in my very first poetry workshop, and whose final revision was enacted in 2018! In other words, for years I had the page count for what might make up a book, but it wasn’t until I wrote the epistolary poem (in the voice of Rubén Darío from the grave) “January 21, 2013,” that I felt ready to begin thinking in terms of a “book.” The concluding gesture was writing, in the summer of 2017, the 3-part, 4000-word essay, “My Rubén.” In short, rather than saying “I wrote a book,“ a more accurate depiction would be ”I assembled a book.”


RLG:

There’s a sensitivity to the poetry that I’m drawn to, especially the mixture of English and Spanish in some poems, for example in Gloria’s and Calle Momotombo. How have others reacted to this linguistic aspect of the Hispanic experience in the USA?


Calle Momotombo


Managua, the ’50s


I


Nights, I step

in, take a seat

beside her



sewing machine,

stay until one,

two, platicando—


como me encanta

la madrugada.

Months leading


up to Christmas

blur, filling

orders—vestidos,


camisas, skirts, We

leave the door

open and greet


who strolls up,

down the street, Nada

de peligro,


safe



II


They’ tending el puesto

Yolanda, Sandra, Conchita . . .

novio, I say, ¿Dónde


está? She’ inside

doing the dishes

—all I need to know:

como un gato I tiptoe


towards her, the faucet

more spring than

faucet, the incessant

sound of water


masking my steps—

soft, soft from behind

until I raise both

hands and curl


my arms firmly

around, cover

her eyes, envuelto

en mis brazos,


her back up

against my chest

—tight. Of course

she knows: no one


touches her

like this. This

is a dream—well,

not that exactly, but


a message, spirit

to spirit—this scene

nothing she’s

ever recalled


in person



Copyright © 2020 by Francisco Aragón. From After Rubén. Reprinted by permission of the author.


FA:

I’m not aware of any specific reactions to the poems in the book that deploy code-switching so it’s gratifying to hear that you were drawn to some of these. But I can offer the following thoughts, since you mention “Calle Momotombo” and “Gloria’s:” these pieces, along with “Academia Escolar” and the first “Voices” on page 78, were the result of stories passed on to me by my father, stories he shared (in Spanish) in the spring of 1997. I spent twenty days with him over two separate, ten-day visits in a town way in the far northern regions of California.


RLG:

The issue of place is an American theme that is frequently visited in American literature, yet as a Native-born American, I’m wondering if you relate to the “Latino in America” syndrome as referred to in the poem Because They Lived Abroad: “I will inhabit a place / that doesn’t exist” (p. 93).


FA:

When I was a graduate student at Notre Dame (2001-2003), I was lucky enough to enroll in two poetics seminars, during which—in conversations with a poetry scholar there—I came to appreciate this notion of a “poetics of the Americas.” This, coupled with the reading I’d done—in Spanish—during the decade I lived in Spain allowed me to conceptualize my poetic lineage beyond North America. The “They” in that poem you allude to is a reference to César Vallejo (Peru), Rubén Darío (Nicaragua), and Amado Nervo (Mexico)—that is to say: Latin American poets who’d spent extensive periods of time in Europe. And so, as an American-born Latinx writer who lived in Europe for ten years, I consider myself part of that lineage. I increasingly feel a kinship, for example, with Latinx poets who are based in England, a poet like Leo Boix, who was born in Argentina, but who now embodies this notion of the British Latinx writer. There’s a thriving British Latinx poetry scene I’ve had the pleasure of being in conversation with thanks to people like Leo Boix and Nathalie Teitler.


RLG:

The other reading I sense which is perhaps obvious by the title to some but debated by others is the element of one’s sexual identity. How has the Hispanic community reacted to your openness in your poetry?


FA:

As with any community that is not homogenous, and the so called “Latinx community” would fit in that category, I’m not aware of specific reactions where my “openness” in After Rubén is concerned. However, if you’re referring to Rubén Darío’s sexual identity, such as in the epistolary poem I alluded to earlier, I’m aware of the “controversy” surrounding the nine Darío letters to Amado Nervo—letters that suggest an intimate relationship between them. I address this in part three of the essay (“My Rubén”). My sense is that in some circles it’s borderline blasphemy to suggest that Darío and Nervo may have been lovers. But for others—to quote the Darío scholar who’s written about this—“these letters offer us a Darío and Nervo who are even more human, more passionate than what we imagined.”


RLG:

I’d like to circle back to my initial question. How would you like this creative work or almost a literary dialogue, if you will, to be received?


FA:

I’m going to latch onto to your term “literary dialogue” and say: from an aesthetic or imaginative standpoint, I’d like to foment this notion of conversations across time between the living, and between the living and the dead, or even between the dead since we’re all destined to occupy that realm.


RLG:

There’s no copyright credit given for the Rubén Darío poems. Is this to suggest that they are now in the public domain?


FA:

Yes, the work of Rubén Darío (1867—1916), according to Ilan Stavans, with whom I double-checked (he edited for Penguin The Selected Writings of Rubén Darío), is in the public domain.


RLG:

I admire your translations or better said your version/interpretations of Rubén Darío’s poems towards the end of the book. Thank you for bringing his poems to our attention. I wonder why you chose not to place the English and Spanish poems side by side instead of in the appendix to the book. What was your motivation?


FA:

Of the ten poems you allude to, seven of them are designated as “after Rubén Darío,” and three of them are loose English “versions.” In other words, they’re all over the map. I view them as poems written in English that were inspired by, in very different ways, Rubén Darío. For example, “To George W. Bush” loosely borrows the rhetorical strategies of Darío’s “A Roosevelt”(an allusion to Teddy Roosevelt in 1903) and transposes the circumstances to 2006 during the Iraq war. In other words, because these aren’t, in any conventional sense, “translations,” placing the Darío Spanish originals en face was not the way to go, in my view. I wanted the reader to experience the poems as English language poems first and foremost. And then, if they so choose, they could consult the source material that inspired them—afterwards.


RLG:

Can you speak to the Sergio Ramírez diatribe about Darío’s choice of life although married to a woman with whom he had a child who later died?


FA:

On November 21, 2012, the Nicaraguan novelist Sergio Ramirez published an article, online, titled, “El sencillo arte de dejarse engañar.” In it, he argues that the nine Rubén Darío letters discovered in the archive acquired by Arizona State University, letters addressed to Amado Nervo, were fake. I read the 1000-word piece and I would not describe it as a diatribe against Darío himself, but rather a piece that questioned the authenticity of the letters. The Darío scholar who spearheaded ASU’s acquisition of the archive, Alberto Acereda, went on to write and publish a 31-page, peer-reviewed, scholarly article titled, “Los manuscritos Darianos de Arizona: autenticidad de la colección y apostilles a las cartas a Amado Nervo.” In it, without naming Ramírez, he discusses the letters, offering detailed context for each one, including reports of how maps and almanacs of early 19th century Madrid and New York were studied in order to pin down the geographical circumstances of each and every letter. Although Acereda doesn’t come out and explicitly say that homophobia is behind efforts to discredit the authenticity of the letters, he does make light of the fact that the “letters-must-be-fake” argument, up until that time, had never been invoked in similar disputes in the past. What made these current efforts noteworthy, in his view, was that it involved a same-sex liaison. What I can share, from a personal conversation I had in Washington, D.C., is that in some literary circles, suggesting that Rubén Darío may have been involved in a clandestine relationship with another man are efforts to “soil” his name. The irony is that Sergio Ramirez’s novel, Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea, depicts a scene of Darío holding a silver crucifix on his deathbed, a silver crucifix gifted to him by Amado Nervo during the well-documented circumstance of them sharing an apartment in Paris for nine months in 1900.


From Rubén Darío’s sonnet, Amado Nervo:


Generoso y sutil como una mariposa,

encuentra en mí la miel de que soy capaz,

y goza en mí la dulce fragancia de la rosa.


From Francisco Aragón:


Both ample and nuanced as a butterfly,

in me you’ll find the nectar I can become,

enjoy in me the sweet scent of a rose.


RLG:

Thank you, Francisco, for this important collection to the canon of American Literature and the more specific group Latinx Literature.



About Francisco Aragón

Francisco Aragón was born in San Francisco of Nicaraguan immigrants. He lived in Spain for a decade, after which he enrolled and completed degrees in creative writing at UC-Davis and the University of Notre Dame. In 2003, he joined the faculty of the University of Notre Dame’s Institude for Latino Studies, where he established Letras Latinas. In 2017, he was a finalist for Split This Rock’s Freedom Flow Award for poetry and activism. A CantoMundo fellow and a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, he is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and Glow of Our Sweat (Scapegoat Press), as well as editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). In the fall he teaches Latinx poetry on the Notre Dame campus, and in the spring he teaches a poetry workshop in Washington, D. C. Visit: http://franciscoaragon.net




Matthew Feeney


Mr. Wind


The wind came to talk to me today

Whistling’ upon my silence

Moving my hair and my heart


Playing with the pages of my magazine

Striving to get my attention

Swayed by tender touches


Warm kisses of far-off scents

Faded laughter and tears

Stories of universe far beyond my fence


Flowing fluidly through the chain-link

Speeding off to his next context—

Pollinating contemplation.



Copyright © 2021 by Matthew Feeney.



Humanity


As a white man, you know privilege


As a gay man, you know pride


As a felon, you know prejudice


As a sex offender, you know hatred


As a human being, you know conflict

love, hate

sorrow, joy

peace, unrest

emotions, thoughts

isolation and connection


As a writer, you know poetry . . .

write as if your life depended on it.



Copyright © 2021 by Matthew Feeney.



19 and Me


Locked up

Separated from family

Relying on others for food & supplies

NO TOUCHING!

Only communication with loved ones overs phone or video


Being told what to do

where we can or can’t go

and when we can or can’t do anything


All special activities cancelled

No haircuts

No religious programming

No educational classes

Nothing to do

Just me and my TV


“They” make all the decisions

we’re required to blindly follow

New Curfews

Rules changing hourly

Authorities checking to make sure we are where we’re supposed to be


Compliance is Mandatory

disobedience will not be tolerated


People afraid of “Others”

Of getting sick

Of losing their life

Can’t even go to the hospital in an emergency without special clearance


Powerless, helpless, hopeless . . .


Society just got a small dose

of what my life is like

EVERY DAY

in prison.



Copyright © 2021 by Matthew Feeney.



Walking Man


The man walks silently

His thoughts

bouncing

Like pinballs—

bonus bells

& buzzers

flashing flippers &

strobe lights

his heart tilting


The man walks silently

His stride unbroken

His face impassive


The man walks silently

One step at a time.



Copyright © 2021 by Matthew Feeney.



About the Author

Matthew Feeney is currently incarcerated in Minnesota. He has published in several anthologies and dozens of mainstream journals, including The Analog Sea Review, The Pinyon Review, and The Blue Collar Review. In 2017, he won second place from PEN America in Fiction; in 2018 1st Place Grandview Award from the League of Minnesota Poets; and in 2019 he received an Honorable Mention from PEN America for Drama. Three of his poems were performed live at PEN America’s 2019 World Voices Festival; another poem was orchestrated and composed into choral music; and an OBJECT America project featuring a recording of one of his poems was exhibited in Paris, Berlin, and Switzerland.



Jacqueline Jules


Words to Live By


A phrase engraved

on King Solomon’s ring,

extolled by Abraham Lincoln.


True

for every hour

of every day.


This too will pass.


A blessing

when I was sick,

the roof leaked,

my car was stolen.


A curse

on this crisp Sunday morning

sipping coffee on the porch.


This too will pass.


True for every hour

of every day.



Copyright © 2021 by Jacqueline Jules.



The Time for Listening


This is the time for listening.

To hear the sobs beneath

the heat of the words.


This is the time to quiet

your breath, your beating heart,

your gnashing teeth.


To admit that noise in your head

can muffle what enters your ears.


This is the time to honor

who is speaking,

to acknowledge the voice

traveling through the air,

asking to be heard.



Copyright © 2021 by Jacqueline Jules.



About the Author

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks and the recently released Manna in the Morning ( Kelsay Books, 2021). Her work has appeared in over 100 publications including Innisfree Poetry Journal, Poetic Voices Without Borders, The Paterson Literary Review, Cider Press Review, Potomac Review, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. Visit her online at https://metaphoricaltruths.blogspot.com/


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