Saturday, February 25, 2012

Javier O. Huerta’s forthcoming American Copia: An Immigrant Epic (Arte Publico Press, 2012)

"Today I’m going to the grocerystore,” begins this creative fusion of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. This isalso the sentence Javier O. Huerta was given to write during his naturalizationinterview. Having lived in the U.S. for twenty years already, he was put off bythe simplicity of the sentence. “I wanted to tell the INS agent that I could dothings with the English language that she could never imagine,” he writes in the preface."


I’ve never physically met Javier O. Huerta though for a long time I have felt like I have been in conversation with him. Rewind three or four years back: to 2008 or 2009 my memory is vague, I don’t recall the exact date—I am sophomore or junior in college—and I post a poem (or rather one of those early pieces of nonsense and which we have the audacity to call a poem) as a comment to one of Javier’s series of posts titled “undocumented poems” featured on his blog:Unitedstatesean Notes. Months later and to my surprise a line from this poem would appear literally strolling shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee with the words of other poets marching “down International” in his e-chapbook Almost As Beautiful as an Immigrant Rights March down International:

“…many years ago. / No, these are the cautious steps; / thing without a name rolls to the desert ground. / I ignite the internal…”


The next time I saw Javier, we met through Emmy Pérez and Oscar Bermeo whom I met at the inaugural CantoMundo gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Emmy had been Javier’s instructor at UTEP and Oscar Bermeo and Javier are fellow poets from the San Francisco bay area. All along I felt like Javier was right there talking always talking. ¿Y qué decía Javier? Javier decía “que cuenten que hasta nos moriamos de la risa,” el decía:

attention mexican people
we no longer say ‘LOL’
datz for white people
we now say ‘CMC’ (Casi me Cago)
. . . pasalo a todos”


I believe that behind the name Javier O. Huerta is the poet, which wears this name like a mask. Javier writes in “Es suficiente decirlo:”

Sal de la cajuela del Camaro.
Sal de atrás del nopal.
Sal de abajo de la cama.
De hoy en adelante no tendrás que esconderte.
De hoy en adelante te llamarás Javier.

Like the mythical luchador enmascarado, the poet summons this name, this mask—I mean—in order to be seen, the mask becomes the identity. In a strange and beautiful paradox, the poet conjures up these masks to give identity to faces veiled under the dehumanizing power of a language that seeks to erase this presence under words like “illegal” and “alien.”




                                                POR TODOS LADOS





Read Almost as Beautiful as an Immigrant Rights March down International here.

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