Wednesday, April 24, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 24: “Gloves” by José Angel Araguz

Read “Gloves” on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry series here.

I first encountered José Angel Araguz and his work at a writers’ conference where he presented a fascinating workshop on erasure poetry. José was soft-spoken, down to earth, direct, and funny; he’s taught for the past few years at Linfield College in Oregon, and I can only imagine how many students think of him as their favorite professor. That was the first time I’d seen an instructor incorporate Instagram poets into a conference workshop, and it was enlightening; I have to admit that most of my opinions about Instagram poetry came from crotchety comments from older writers, whose experience with it pretty much began and ended with Rupi Kaur.

José’s poem “Gloves” isn’t an erasure poem, but like an erasure poem, it’s pared down to only what it wants to impart, small packets of information that leave the rest for the reader to fill in. It starts like a fable or myth, a made-up story, which gives it a childlike feel, almost a nursery rhyme with its short length and short lines. But this no nursery rhyme; we quickly learn there’s a father, and a prison, and these mythical gloves that become symbols of what’s missing in these two lives—letters, conversations, comminication, the father seeing the son grow up. And then those last two stanzas—again, could they be any more distilled?—where we see the father’s hand in the child’s glove, which still bears the imprint of the child, just a trace. What an amazing image.

José’s recent book Until We Are Level Again was a finalist for this year’s Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Recently he announced that he’s moving to Boston to teach at Suffolk University—where, I’m sure, a whole new crop of students will call him their favorite professor. Lucky them.

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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