Javier might have to confirm or deny this memory: I think the first time I met him was at the Palmer House in Chicago the last time the AWP conference was held in Chicago. (What year was that?) It was at the first "Con Tinta" gathering before Con Tinta existed. In other words, a group of us decided to organize a little reception after a Chicana poets panel. We had Mexican food catered and delivered to my room. Someone (Emmy Pérez?) introduced me to Javier Huerta. He was a graduate student in UTEP's bilingual creative writing program, and he was also the poetry editor of the Rio Grande Review there. Does that sound right?
The next time I saw him was during my first visit to El Paso---at a Barnes and Noble. Sheryl Luna and I were giving a reading there, and Javier introduced me (Richard Yanez introduced Sheryl). It was shortly after Puerta del Sol and Pity the Drowned Horses came out. I was generously hosted by Emmy Pérez and her husband Peter. That was a fun trip. I remember an excursion to Mesilla, and Cuidad Juárez. But I didn't really get to hang out with Javier. Lástima.
And then I mostly remember how highly Emmy Pérez would always speak of him---he'd been her student at UTEP. And the next thing I know, Valerie Martínez is choosing his manuscript as the winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize at UC Irvine---a few months before she'd choose Gabriel Gómez's (from El Paso) as the winner of the second Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, which we announced that year at the Border Book Festival. So that would have been spring of 2006. And then I heard that he'd been accepted to do doctoral work in English at UC Berkeley. I thought, cool: a poet-critic.
Javier Huerta was the last person I asked to be a contributing editor at Latino Poetry Review. He should have been the first. LPR is indebted to him for setting the standard for post-publication discussion. He, along with Miguel Murphy, also contributed to one of the most interesting pieces in the first issue: their e-conversation, Blood and Breath. Of the newer poets I've been observing these last few years, Javier's trajectory has been the most gratifying to watch.
KUHF*FM, Houston's Public Radio station (NPR) is currently profiling him on their website with an interesting biographical sketch and radio interview to mark his selection as Arte Público Press' author of the month. I just got done listening to it.
CHECK IT OUT.