Friday, June 12, 2015

Poem for the Weekend: Juan Felipe Herrera

 

This week, the Library of Congress announced the appointment of the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate. Juan Felipe Herrera was California's Poet Laureate for the past several years, and he's the first Latino named to the national role. Born to a family of Mexican migrant workers, Herrera eventually attended UCLA, Stanford, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and much of his work is focused on the working class. "Mr. Herrera said that his goal as poet laureate is to unify different communities through meter and verse. 'People are asking ‘why are we so far apart?’—whatever the issue,' he said. 'I want poetry, and what I do as a poet laureate, to bring us closer together. That’s the heart of it." Interview here.

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

by Juan Felipe Herrera
 
for Charles Fishman
 
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.

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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka