Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Juan Felipe Herrera; Poet Laureate of California

I'm late on this, but since it is still National Poetry Month, I wanted to acknowledge Juan Felipe Herrera, who was appointed the Poet Laureate of California last month. He becomes the first Chicano to ever hold this post.

It might be of importance to people who read this blog, as his work is very much influenced by the Beat Generation (writers like Allen Ginsberg), as well as the whole Chicano movement. In fact, Herrera was at the very first Festival de Flor y Canto (Festival of flower and song) at USC in 1973 where he shared the stage with some of the great Chicano/a writers of the time like Oscar "Zeta" Acosta, Alurista, Juan Gómez Quiñones, José Montoya, Ricardo Sánchez and many others. (In 2010, he was also present at USC for a new Flor Y Canto that included artists from the original festival, as well as representatives of a new generation of voices).

His most recent work, "Half of the World in Light" was a winner of that year's National Book Critics Circle award in poetry, but I'm more familiar with his 2007 collection, "187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007." The title piece is perhaps his most known--and most hilarious--poem. A short excert below:
Because Lou Dobbs has been misusing the subjunctive again
Because our suitcases are made with biodegradable maguey fibers
Because we still resemble La Malinche
Because multiplication is our favorite sport
Because we’ll dig a tunnel to Seattle
Because Mexico needs us to keep the peso from sinking
Because the Berlin Wall is on the way to Veracruz
Because we just learned we are Huichol
Because someone made our IDs out of corn
Because our border thirst is insatiable
Because we're on peyote & Coca-Cola & Banamex
Because it's Indian land stolen from our mothers
Because we're too emotional when it comes to our mothers
Because we've been doing it for over five hundred years already...

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