Friday, June 12, 2015


This week, Juan Felipe Herrera was named Poet Laureate.  Herrera, a native Californian, and the son of migrant farm workers, is the nation's first Hispanic Poet Laureate. I was excited about this appointment, because Herrera's background, the son of laborers, is similar to the background of my students.  

Describing his poetry for the Wall Street Journal, Herrera says, "I would say my poetry is at times a sculpted investigation…and at times it's a clown's tap dance. Other times I leave those two behind and I just want to tell a story that my mother would love, a poem that my mother would love, and that is good enough." Herrera said he wants people to use poetry to capture experiences from their daily lives. “I invite people to not be afraid and to say who they are and what their experience is and what’s going on in their lives through poetry,” he said. He wants poetry to stretch across worlds and unite people. I didn't know much about Juan Felipe Herrera. When I went looking for his poems, I discovered I actually did know him as a children's author, or at least I recognized a few children's books he has written. 

You can find a few of his poems on the Poetry Foundation website.  I loved this one because I think it captures my students' experiences. I'm always amazed as they move fluidly between two languages. They talk to their friends and family and some teachers in Spanish. Then they turn their heads and talk to me in English. As someone who wants to be fluent in both languages, and works at it every single day, I can tell you it's not that easy. And yet they make it seem effortless, seamless.  

[Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way]

Let us gather in a flourishing way
with sunluz grains abriendo los cantos
que cargamos cada día   
en el young pasto nuestro cuerpo
para regalar y dar feliz perlas pearls
of corn flowing árboles de vida en las cuatro esquinas
let us gather in a flourishing way
contentos llenos de fuerza to vida
giving nacimientos to fragrant ríos   
dulces frescos verdes turquoise strong
carne de nuestros hijos rainbows
let us gather in a flourishing way

Read the rest of the poem here.

Head over to Julie Larios' Drift Record to read another post, with lots of fabulous links, about our new Poet Laureate!

Visit a delicious Poetry Friday Roundup at Jama Rattigan's blog. Warning: Eat before you go there! 


Julie Johnson said...

I realize that I, too, know Herrera's children's books. I love the line, "I invite people to not be afraid and to say who they are and what their experience is and what's going on in their lives through poetry." Thanks for sharing the links. I look forward to digging deeper into his poetry and sharing them with my students.

Holly Mueller said...

I need to explore this poet's work more. I don't know it. A good excuse to put his poetry books on my TBR list this summer!

Donna Smith said...

Love this poem shared here. The two languages woven together is beautiful.

Mary Lee said...

Hooray for a Poet Laureate who looks and speaks like the children we teach!

Linda B said...

I looked for some of those children's books yesterday at the book sale at the Denver Public Library, but didn't spot any. I know one, but not the others. Thanks for this poem Carol, I tried to translate it, and then went to Google, tried to understand the flavor at least. It's like a celebration, isn't it? Thank you.

Julie said...

I just love the way Herrera weaves together the Spanish and English in the poem you posted, Carol - it sounds so much like the "Spanglish" spoken by people near the border - El Paso, Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, San Diego, Nogales, Brownsville and Matamoros. I have the feeling Herrera will remind us that English is a living language, still being influenced by its new immigrant communities. And isn't it lovely that he teaches in the schools? I'm excited to see what's coming down the pike from him during his tenure as Poet Laureate.Thanks for posting this exciting poem.

Tara said...

That repeating line is so powerful - such a voice of affirmation.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Grateful to you and to Julie for these posts and links this week!
Our church is working with children in our local migrant community this summer, so I've been trying to expand my woefully limited bits of Spanish as well. ;0) The kids make the other way around look so easy!