FRESNO– Juan Felipe Herrera is the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate. As a Central Valley poet, though, it carried further significance for me and my poet friends. Herrera is the second U.S. Poet Laureate in the last four years from the Central Valley; the other is Philip Levine.
My favorite poem by Juan Felipe Herrera is “Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings”.
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.
I love this poem because in it he explains what it’s like to write poetry in a way I’ve never heard before. He explains how nerve racking life is and how soothing poetry can be for the heart and mind. I like this poem because I agree that poetry gives a sort of calmness that other things don’t. He explains what poetry is made to do and what it’s supposed to make you feel.
I wanted to find out what other Fresno poets thought about another U.S. Poet Laureate from Fresno, so I asked a few at an Inner Ear poetry night. Here’s what they said:
The Inner Ear Poetry Slam meets on the last Friday of every month from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Teazer’s in the Galleria in downtown Fresno.