An evening with the maestro: Juan Felipe Herrera comes to town

The 21st Poet Laureate of the Unites States came to little Silver City this week. The place will never be the same. Herrera was a hurricane of ideas, poetry, stories, music and love.

In front of a packed house, he talked (and sang) about his childhood, about his days tending farm animals, about his father’s experiences jumping trains to get from Chihuahua to Colorado, and about a Buddhist cinema that inspired a poem. He spoke about the power of community to heal wounds in troubled times, and he marveled at our little community, which is full of poets and artists and musicians.

Photo by Stewart Hale for Silver City Daily Press and Independent
Photo by Stewart Hale for Silver City Daily Press and Independent

There’s no other word for it: Herrera was sensational. With a gesture of his hand he conjured honey pouring from the heart; with just a few licks on his harmonica he magicked up happy times; with a fold of a tiny piece of paper he showed how a poem becomes a bird. Hell, the dude even let me do a duet with him – I read in English, he in Spanish.

Herrera’s is a mind that never sleeps. On two car journeys together, we managed to invent two new poetic forms: a cambiamento (Portuguese for change), which is when two readers read the same poem in different languages, the original line followed by the translation; and a poemantel (a blend of the Spanish words poema and mantel), which is a poem written on a tablecloth that tells a family’s history.

Besides being a great poet, Herrera is just a tremendously inspiring man. He’s never forgotten his humble roots and I don’t think he’ll ever tire of encouraging people to express themselves and to go forward with love and curiosity. Bravo, maestro. You filled our hearts with love and life!

Me, Juan Felipe Herrera and my son, Keanu
Me, Juan Felipe Herrera and my son, Keanu




3 Comments Add yours

  1. The idea of the poemantel is a fascinating one.


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