English Professor named 2019 Oregon Book Awards finalist

Angel Rosas, News Editor

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English professor José Angel Araguz was recently named as a 2019 Oregon Book Award finalist for his most recent collection of poems,“Until We are Level Again.”

Araguz said that this nomination was a great honor and being embarrassed by the Oregon writing community that he had to leave in order to get his doctoral degree was especially meaningful.

However, success nor recognition came easy for Araguz who went on to say that there were many instances where his work was not published or dismissed out right.

“It [the nomination] comes with a lot of shine. But behind it is a lot of years of rejection. I have been doing this for about 20 years now and it has been a road,” Araguz said.

Araguz said that what the nomination means in his day to day is that his, “work found another set of readers, and that, that means a lot.”

In second grade Araguz was first introduced to the 5-7-5 syllable structure of Haikus. And as a second grader Araguz said he would use his little figures to his haikus that often starred aliens, ninja turtles and a tons of other adolescent influences.

Although the content of his poems have changed over time Araguz still goes back to crafting the haikus and tries to write a haiku or a small poem everyday just to get words on the paper.

Writing started to come easy to Araguz his next obstacle was allowing to let others critique his writing.

With some work and the help of a close friend Araguz said he learned that editing helped his writing grow and at 17-years-old he was able to get two poems picked up by his town’s local branch of Texas A&M Universities literary journal.

Angel Rosas
Jose Araguz, the faculty advisior for Linfield’s literary magazine Camus, also manages his own personal blog called “The Friday Influence”

After that experience Araguz saw poetry and writing as something that he would be doing for a long time and later that same year he performed at his first open mic.

When asked about the difficulties of a writing in the world of social media where there are massive amounts of poems and poets pushing out their own through the web Araguz said that only one thing should matter: You and the paper.

He said that it reminds him of the time right after he received his Master of Fine Arts and the competitiveness that he to deal with and how many saw him

as the cliche of a poor, small city kid trying to make it out in the big city.

While Araguz was working at a coffee shop in New York he saw many of his colleagues getting published and caused him to question why he wasn’t achieving at their level.

In the ego and competitiveness that surrounded him Araguz said that he developed mantra that, “it’s not my poetry that matters, it is poetry that matters.”

He said that although it was difficult to continue writing during those times Araguz just focused on writing, teaching and working to maintain the community of his own readers.

When talking about what this his newest book Araguz said that this one moves into themes of death and more specifically the death of his father.

“My mom left him when I was two and he died when I was six,” Araguz said,  “I really didn’t know him. I have two memories of him, two physical memories.”

Araguz said that there was constant absence and even though he didn’t know what it meant to have a father he knew no one would truly be able to fill that position.

On top of the themes of death Araguz said that “Until We are Level Again” is his calmest of his books.

He also said scattered within the book are letters to his father, some haikus and is concluded with ideas distance. A distance not only from home, Araguz explained, but a distance from family, culture and changing relationships that also creates a gap.

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