Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What a Poem Brings

Richard Hugo in his essay “Statements of Faith,” wrote: “Writing is a slow accumulative way of accepting one’s life as valid…”

I don’t really know why, but this statement brought to mind a wonderful poet Juan Felipe Herrera, who earlier this month won the PEN Beyond Margins Award. Here is one of the poems from his recently released Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2008). Herrera is a Chicano poet, the son of migrant workers, and his poetry speaks to that experience without aggrandizing its dislocation and difficulty. This book is fabulous—heartbreaking and funny and straight to the gut honest. Below is one of my favorite of his poems and you can hear Herrera read it at the PEN web site.

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

for Charles Fishman

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.

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