Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Latino US Poet Laureate from California

Crystal Quintero, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly;,; NY Times
UC Santa Cruz's Crystal Salas/Nikita Egar (Poetry Solves Problems) Atomic Tangerine Press.
Chicano dating sites? Los Angeles is about blending cultures (
Poetry is about passion and word sophistication.
There's Pablo Neruda. There's the "Spanish Shakespeare," Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra, author of The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, who stood on the shoulders of the Spanish Moor (African Muslim) Cide Hamete Ben Engeli.
  • Cervantes states that the first chapters of Don Quixote are taken from "The Archive of La Mancha" and the rest of Don Quixote translated from the Arabic from the works of Moorish author Cid Hamet Ben Engeli. [But we are told that this was just a "metafictional trick" and that Cervantes is really the ingenious author who does not rely on any previous work and is not inspired by anything from the African Muslim Knights of Spain, the Moors, who along with Spanish nobility also had a knight-errant tradition like that of England and Asia. Readers must decide for themselves.]
Buddhism in MX and CA
There's the mysterious author of the great Spanish epic,  The Song of My Cid. There's Virgil, author of the Aeneid, from classic Latin culture in ancient Rome, from which Spain and its imperial holdings in Latin America took so much inspiration. More astonishing is the fact that Buddhism came to Mexico and California long before Christianity, Latin culture, and Holy Roman imperialism (see How the Swan Came to the Lake by Rick Fields). There's the Chicano (Mexican-American) Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez. Moreover, there is the California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino to hold the post, who today becomes the first Latin American U.S. Poet Laureate, as reported by NPR and the New York Times.
California Poet Laureate goes National:
Juan Felipe Herrera named US poet laureate

(, KPCC FM,, )
Juan Felipe Herrera won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008 for his collection Half of the World in Light (courtesy of Blue Flower Arts).

11:37 am: Herrera steps onto a "bigger stage"
Juan Felipe Herrera won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008 for his collection <em>Half of the World in Light.</em>
New U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera
California writer Juan Felipe Herrera said he was "inundated with happiness" and "humbled" by the news that he had been appointed the nation's first Latino poet laureate.
As NPR reported earlier, Herrera was also the first Latino poet laureate for California.

"It's a bigger stage, you know, and it’s very exciting, perhaps even a bigger responsibility even though it's very similar. It's a beautiful set of possibilities," Herrera told KPCC's Take Two on Wednesday.

Murrieta = the Mexican Robin Hood
Herrera, of Chicano descent, said he came from a family of farmworkers who were also poets and self-made artists. He said that growing up he read a lot and always spent a lot of time in libraries.
Though he hasn't been able to locate a favorite poem about a house under an apple tree that his mother would read to him as a child, he said he does remember her reciting a lot of ballads, or corridos:
"The one I remember is 'El Corrido del Contrabando del Paso Villa' — 'The Ballad of the Contraband of El Paso' — that talks about, you know, crossing the border and being apprehended by the border patrol. It's just that, you know. It's in the corrido. It's in the ballad. And I loved it as a child. My mother knew it, so I learned it." — KPCC staff
7:38 am: Juan Felipe Herrera named US poet laureate
We're moving on up, huh, Lucy? - Oh, boy.
Poetry readers, prepare yourselves for a passing of the laurels. The Library of Congress announced in the wee hours Wednesday that the next U.S. poet laureate will be California writer Juan Felipe Herrera. He will be the first Latino poet to be appointed to the position.
"This is a mega-honor for me," Herrera said in the announcement, "for my family and my parents who came up north before and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 — the honor is bigger than me."
A poet of Chicano descent, the 66-year-old has spent just about his whole life on the West Coast. Born to a family of migrant farmworkers, Herrera bounced from tent to trailer for much of his youth in Southern California, eventually going on to study at UCLA and Stanford. Years later, he stepped out of the state to attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop, before — you guessed it — returning home to California.

Aztec Kwan Yin, Lady Queen of Angels (LTG)
Along the way, Herrera has been prolific — so prolific, in fact, that few seem to agree just how many books the man has written. (Some say 30, others 29, and the Library of Congress says 28. We'll just put the number at "dozens.") Those works include poetry collections, novels in verse and plenty of children's books. Across this body of work, the shadow of California, and his cultural heritage, has loomed large.
"I've worked throughout California as a poet; in colleges, universities, worker camps, migrant education offices, continuation high schools, juvenile halls, prisons, and gifted classrooms," Herrera told the campus newspaper at the University of California at Riverside, where he taught creative writing. "I would say [I've been] from San Diego all the way to Arcata and throughout the valleys... for the last 40 years."

Poet Laureate Herrera's poetry, like makeup and dress, is a celebration of multicultural diversity, Latin and American, like Mexican American life in Hispanic Appalachia (Hairpin).

The role of poet-in-chief isn't entirely new to Herrera. Beyond his teaching duties at UC Riverside, he has been serving as California's poet laureate since 2012. He's the first Latino poet to assume that role in the state's history.
Young Santa Muerte (Robert Felix/pinterest)
The U.S. poet laureate's one-year term doesn't carry a lot of prescribed responsibilities — "the Library keeps to a minimum [its] specific duties," according to the announcement — but past laureates have often embarked on projects to advocate on behalf of the form and to widen its audience. And if there's anything to be gleaned from Herrera's past, it's that Herrera likely will be active in the new position, too.
In a conversation with the journal Zyzzyva, Herrera set out a mini-manifesto of sorts for the role of the writer as teacher.
"These days I think it is good to be in society — to wake yourself up in the throng and mix of people on sidewalks, subways and cafeterias — so teaching writing keeps me at the root of things: new voices, new experiences and new ways of meditating on life and the planet," Herrera said. "Both are extremely essential."

What makes for a passionate, poetic cultura?
"Poetry," he said, in an interview two years earlier with The Los Angeles Times, "can tell us about what's going on in our lives, not only our personal but our social and political lives."

Herrera is expected to step into the position this fall with the National Book Festival in September. He will succeed Charles Wright, the current U.S. poet laureate. No word yet on when they plan to exchange their poetic licenses.
But, if you're new to Herrera's work, don't just trust me with your first impression. Below, you'll find Herrera himself, in a poem excerpted from his 2008 collection, Half of the World in Light:
Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings
for Charles Fishman
J.F. Herrera (New York Times)
Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn't exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence. More
Excerpted from Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright 2008 Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arizona Press. This material is protected from unauthorized downloading and distribution. — Colin Dwyer/NPR

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