Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In the wake of Juan Felipe's visit.....

Based on the feedback received thus far, Juan Felipe Herrera's two full days at Notre Dame left an indelible impression among the various people he came into contact with (students, faculty, people in the community). After his reading on the evening of October 5, he signed books and interacted with the public, uninterrupted, for one hour and fifteen minutes. Right now, we'd like to share three "documents," if you will, of his time at Notre Dame. A photograph with two MFA graduate students; the video interview he took part in; and the Introduction Orlando Menes shared on October 5. --FA

Susanna Velarde Covarrubias, Juan Felipe Herrera
Luis Lopez-Maldonado
photo credit: Francisco Aragón

Letras Latinas Oral History Project Interview
October 6, 2016
Julian Samora Library, Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame
Introducing Juan Felipe Herrera
Orlando Ricardo Menes

Thank you for coming this evening to hear Juan Felipe Herrera, our current Poet Laureate of the United States, read from his poetry.  Having taught his dynamic bilingual collection Thunderweavers some years ago in one of my Latino/a poetry classes, this introduction will, I hope, give you a sense of the esteem that I, as a fellow poet, have for this prolific and celebrated colleague.  (Please note that I will be quoting from the poems in this collection.)  Thunderweavers, set in Mayan Chiapas during the Zapatista uprising, pays homage to the villagers of Acteal who were massacred by paramilitaries in 1997, this “. . . wound of Mexico / an X in the center of its heart.”  Divided into four sections, each in a different female’s voice, these poems speak of communal visions and ecstasies, “the drumbeat of the mountain” and “. . . the winter that is reborn day to day,” cosmic dreams that “weave yellow crosses / woolen suns, rivers of lances.”  These poems aim to heal, as much as words can heal, such brutal violence, such harrowing loss.  Through this quartet of voices, Juan Felipe weaves words that form tapestries of testimony, but if the poem is a loom of words, this poet knows, nonetheless, that the weft and warp of language is far more unstable than yarn.  Thus in Juan Felipe’s poems one finds the words reeling off the page.  Exuberant.  Volatile.  Words that leap into ethereal dimensions of the imagination, dimensions of the in-between, or nepantla in the Aztec tongue of Nahuatl, where the transcultural combines and recombines with the sacred to create new cosmos of understanding, compassion, and beauty.  When I read Juan Felipe’s poetry I think of the poet not just as weaver but also as poietes from the Greek, the maker of song, or the West African griot, or the Amerindian shaman, the seer who sings of hope so “all that remains / is earth and love.”   Juan Felipe teaches us that in their pilgrimage to the truth, poets must cross borderlands of consciousness, cross rivers of words, cross “through the abyss of the millenium.”  Please give a hearty applause to Juan Felipe Herrera. 

October 5, 2016
DeBartolo Performing Arts Center
University of Notre Dame

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