by Melinda Palacio
Javier O. Huerta’s second book of poems, American Copia: An Immigrant Epic, is a life-changing theoretical, metaphorical, and physical trip to the grocery store. What began as simple statement, Today, I am going to the grocery store, turned into a catch phrase, which turn into a sequel to his book. Since the word, Copia, translates directly from Huerta copying down the sentence he received when he became a naturalized U.S. citizen, the poet also plays on the word Copia by copying from himself, a recursive trick to keep literature graduate students entertained for years. Huerta himself is a Ph.D. student in English at UC Berkeley.
American Copia takes the reader on several trips to the grocery store. The dynamic fusion of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, English, Spanish, and Spanglish is a cornucopia of words, food, shoppers, lovers, family, and the immigrant experience.
Huerta says he feels fortunate and realizes that part of the publishing and awards game is all about luck. His first book of poems, Some Clarifications y otros poemas (Arte Público Press, 2007) is the recipient of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize, chosen by Valerie Martinez. He says he hopes his luck continues, but is also conscious of making his own luck. There’s no doubt he will meet his goals of finishing his dissertation and publishing more books, especially one he has in mind on corridos.
Upon meeting Huerta, one wouldn’t know how funny he is because he is shy and reserved. On the page, his poetry and vignettes show a genuinely funny person. His deadpan delivery on and off the page is his strong suit. Huerta admits that slam or performance poetry does not fit his personality as much as telling bad jokes (which he is really good at). In writing a serious story about Memo, a 4-year old grocery cart, Huerta hits his stride and breaks loose as Memo crosses the boundaries of the supermarket’s parking lot. Find all your favorite grocery stores in the book: Safeway, H-E-B, Fiesta, 99 cent stores, Trader Joes, Target, and more.
“I like to word play. I am trying to work on jokes and bilingual relations between English and Spanish. I don’t want to take things too seriously so I throw in a little humor.”
Huerta’s supermarket favorite is the cereal aisle because the boxes are so colorful. “I like to think about the stuff I used to eat,” he said. “I used to get Frosted Flakes, but now that I am supposed to eat healthier and watch my figure, I buy Special K.”
Huerta says he loves La Bloga and hopes readers will buy his book and reminisce about their own fond memories of going to the supermarket.
Next Week, May 19 is Tia Chucha's 7th Annual Celebrating Words Festival, 1pm to 7pm, a free event.
Next week, Tia Chucha's Celebrates its 7th Annual Celebrating Words Festival, May 19, from 1pm to 7pm. Stay for the Tia Chucha Press panel at 3:45 in Room 5 with Luis Rodriguez, Chiwan Choi, Luivette Resto, and Melinda Palacio.