Gente: This has been a year of accolades (deservedly so) for the titan, Juan Felipe Hererra. I could rave about his lyricism, his knife edge commentary, the way his poems seep into sus huesos y sus sueños, his lifetime of building Chicano community. What I will do is refer you back to our review of the PEN/WEST award-winning book, 187 Reasons Why Mexicans Can't Cross the Border and our interview with JFH below.
BTW -- El New York Times calls him "wildly inventive." Better still, just call him el mero mero.......Some more skinny about Hererra:
Juan Felipe Herrera's writings are charged with theatrical and athletic energies. A hybrid collection of texts written and performed on the road, gathered from more than thirty-five years of work in various genres, these "undocuments" are the record of an epic journey across many different borders: boundaries of nations, state lines, city limits, edges of farmland, crossings and mixtures of languages and literary forms.
From Mexico City to San Francisco, from Central America to central California, Herrera remembers everything and gives back to his native places and to the family, friends and compañeros of his Mexican/American/Chicano odyssey a scrapbook, a logbook, a journal, a multiform confession of proud hybridity and indigenous optimism. A sustained manifesto of resistance and affirmation, these rants, manifestos, newspaper cut-ups, bits of street theatre, anti-lectures, love poems and riffs tell the story of what it's like to live outlaw and brown in the United States.
"Papers? Permits? Documents? Identification? Open this book anywhere and find the authorization to keep on, permission to be who you are in your own skin, license to cultivate your inner guerrilla, angelic visas of transcendent transit. This book is the passport to a country under construction." — from the Introduction by Stephen Kessler
"¡Por fin! A manifesto you can dance to. Juan Felipe Herrera's searing laments and soulful riffs don't just electrify. They Mexify."—Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana
"I've been reading Juan Felipe Herrera since he was little baby poet in the 1970s, and this volume, which collects published and unpublished community pieces from the last three decades, gives me an almost painful pleasure. He is the eternal teen poet, the timeless Beat, the premodern postmodern. He is Walt Whitman, Ezekiel, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Scheherazade, Carlos Fuentes, Allen Ginsberg, Frida Kahlo, Groucho and Karl Marx, Emily Dickinson, Santana, Lao Tzu, and Octavio Paz rolled up and squeezed through dreams of Aztlan and justice and jazz. He is Floricanto. And 187 Reasons, more than anything he has written, is his autobiography."—Tom Lutz, author of Doing Nothing, Crying, and Cosmopolitan Vistas
"Juan Felipe Herrera has written a giant verbal mural bursting with the inventiveness, rhythmic colorings, social engagement and humor — in forms of poetry, litany, and autobiography — that reveal not only the greatness but the absolute necessity of Chicano culture. This is a major generational work by a brilliant practitioner of the art of living the word."—Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of the City of San Francisco
"There are at least 187 reasons why you should read Herrera's 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border. A very abbreviated list would include: Because it is some of the strongest poetry, memoir, satire, and theater that you will find in one book- Because within it are over forty years of artfully recorded passion, anger, engagement, humor and love- Because it will carry you across, over and through languages, borders, and cultures revealing truths, asking hard questions, and insisting we see the power not only on of writer as witness, and the power of writer as memory, but the power of writer as conscious revolutionary striving towards a more just and humane world- Because it is a pleasure that will awaken and engage all of your senses as it touches and does not let go of your heart."– devorah major author of Brown Glass Windows, Open Weave, street smarts and Where River Meets Ocean.
"Aware, phosphorescent and immediate, this is language brilliantly engaged. Juan Felipe Herrera is simultaneous lighthouse and lightning, the flash that carries the warning and the live wire. For three decades now Herrera’s hot-colored Surrealism has transmitted one of the strongest border radio signals of alt-poetics from the Mission District to St. Mark’s Poetry Project, from the Taos Poetry Circus to Bisbee, from the first Floricantos of the Bay Area or cross-border exchanges in Tijuana and D.F., Chiapas and Yucatan to San Diego, L. A., Austin and beyond. This poetics makes a practice of making a difference. Here available together for the first time are wide-ranging selections from dozens of Herrera’s outstanding 'experimental’ mixed-genre books, many of which had eccentric or limited original distribution. Contextualized with photos, historical notes and chronology, 187 Reasons serves up both continental panorama and meta-document in the practice of a poetics that comes alive with startling vitality---across borders of political silence and censorship of the Other, semiotic deserts and actual killing fields."– Sesshu Foster author of Atomik Aztex and American Loneliness: Selected Poems
AND IF THAT WEREN'T ENOUGH......
PEN Oakland & The Oakland Public Library Announce the Winners of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles 18th Annual National Literary Awards & 12th Annual PEN Oakland Censorship Award Saturday, December 6th, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM in Oakland Free To The Public
On Saturday, December 6th, come celebrate well-known and emerging Bay Area and international authors who will be honored for excellence in multicultural literature at the 18th Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards.
PEN Oakland, A Bay Area Chapter of the International Organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists, was founded in 1989 to address multicultural issues, and educate the public as to the nature of multicultural work. These award-winning authors address the diversity and uniqueness of American culture, and represent the new voices of American literature. The late Josephine Miles, in whose honor the awards are presented, was a highly regarded poet, critic, and professor of English at the University of California in Berkeley.
On May 15th, PEN Oakland Vice President Reginald Lockett died. In his honor, PEN Oakland has named its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award. This year's winners are poet Diane di Prima, and playwright Adrienne Kennedy. Allen Ginsberg said of Diane, “A great woman poet in second half of American century, she broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”
Adrienne Kennedy was a key figure in the Blacks Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She is best known for her first major play “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” winner of the 1964 Obie Award for most distinguished play. In 1995, critic Michael Feingold of the Village Voice declared that "with Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater."
The PEN Oakland Censorship Award will be given to Project Censored, for its ongoing research on national news stories ignored, misrepresented or censored by the U.S. corporate media, in particular important stories about the nationwide move to impeach President George W. Bush and the fact that over one million Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion, with more than 50% of those deaths attributable to U.S. troops and their allies. Based on the premise that an uninformed or misinformed public cannot make valid policy decisions via the ballot box, PEN Oakland honors this organization for their efforts to bring facts to light that are willfully buried by many mainstream media outlets.
A reception will be held after the awards where the public will have an opportunity to meet the authors, and purchase signed copies of their award winning books. During the program, winners will be presented with a plaque and asked to read selections from their work.
For more information, please call (510) 681-5652.
2008 Josephine Miles National Literary Awards winners are:
Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (Essays) by Rebecca Solnit (University of California Press)
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971—2007 (Poetry & Short Stories) by Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights)
Sleeping with the Moon (Poetry) by Colleen J. McElroy (Illinois Poetry Series)
The Stillness of Love and Exile (Fiction) by Rosa Martha Villarreal (Tertulia Press)
Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department? The Disappearance of Black Americans from U.S. Universities (Non-Fiction) by Cecil Brown (North Atlantic Books)
Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel (Fiction) by Colson Whitehead (Anchor)
About Now: Collected Poems (Poetry) by Joanne Kyger (National Poetry Foundation)
National in scope, the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Awards represent a new perception of multicultural literature that does not seek validation from the literary establishment, but creates its own standards and models of literature.
Past award-winners include: Elmaz Abinader, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Juvenal Acosta, Opal Palmer Adisa, Francisco X. Alarcon, Alfred Arteaga, Marsha Lee Berkman, Eleanor Taylor Bland, Phyllis Burke, Jeffrey Paul Chan, Marilyn Chin, Allen Cohen, Lucha Corpi, Kamau Daaood, Mike Davis, Chitra Divakaruni, Wendy Doniger, Nathan Englander, Ibrahim Fawal, Paul Flores, Ruth Forman, Maketa Groves, Sam Hamill, Peter J. Harris, Joy Harjo, Jack Hirschman, Ghada Karmi, Sylvia Lopez-Medina, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, E. Ethelbert Miller, John Mulligan, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Louis Owens, Robert Parry, Jewel Parker Rhodes, Brenda Lane Richardson, Luis Rodriguez, Jerome Rothenberg, Suhayl Saadi, Elaine Marcus Starkman, Clyde R. Taylor, Clifford E. Trafzer, Gail Tsukiyama, Jose Garcia Villa, Alma Luz Villanueva, Gerald Vizenor, Sylvia Watanabe, Derek Walcott, Gary Webb, Darryl Babe Wilson, Koon Woon, Andy Ross, and Clive Matson. (partial list)
Co-sponsored by the Oakland Public Library and PEN USA
Contact: Kim McMillon
Photo Credit: Johnny Knight From L to R: Dana Cruz (Alicia) and Miranda Gonzalez (Cat)
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