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187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 19712007
Juan Felipe Herrera
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An interesting exploration of immigrant life in America. This is a collection of poems, prose fragments, prose poems, and journals. I tend to find a lot of poetry to be pretty obnoxious and unnecessarily dense. Herrera's writing flows naturally and, while he finds himself funny, he does not seem to think of himself as the glowing center of the universe.
Much of Herrera's writing comments on historical events. I had to look up the Zapatista movement, but otherwise most of the events were within my lifetime, and a fully nuanced understanding of American and Chicano history doesn't seem necessary to enjoy this poet's comments on his own life.
Pretty neat overall. Read it if you like poetry and/or those zany post-modern movements.
| Apr 1, 2010 |
Read the praise for
in the New York Times Book Review!
"Herrera is . . . a sometimes hermetic, wildly inventive, always unpredictable poet, whose work commands attention for its style alone. . . Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed."--New York Times Book ReviewCheck out
for Juan Felipe's blog, bio, tour updates, and more!Juan Felipe Herrera’s writings are charged with theatrical and athletic energies. A hybrid collection of texts written and performed on the road, gathered from more than thirty-five years of work in various genres, these “undocuments” are the record of an epic journey across many different borders: boundaries of nations, state lines, city limits, edges of farmland, crossings and mixtures of languages and literary forms.From Mexico City to San Francisco, from Central America to central California, Herrera remembers everything and gives back to his native places and to the family, friends and compañeros of his Mexican/American/Chicano odyssey a scrapbook, a logbook, a journal, a multiform confession of proud hybridity and indigenous optimism. A sustained manifesto of resistance and affirmation, these rants, manifestos, newspaper cut-ups, bits of street theatre, anti-lectures, love poems and riffs tell the story of what it’s like to live outlaw and brown in the United States.Illustrated throughout with photos and artwork.“Papers? Permits? Documents? Identification? Open this book anywhere and find the authorization to keep on, permission to be who you are in your own skin, license to cultivate your inner guerrilla, angelic visas of transcendent transit. This book is the passport to a country under construction.” — from the Introduction by Stephen KesslerJuan Felipe Herrera is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. Author of 21 books, he is also a community arts leader and a dynamic performer and actor. He is the son of Mexican immigrants and grew up in the migrant fields of California.Praise for
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Border
:"¡Por fin! A manifesto you can dance to. Juan Felipe Herrera's searing laments and soulful riffs don't just electrify. They Mexify."—Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana"I’ve been reading Juan Felipe Herrera since he was little baby poet in the 1970s, and this volume, which collects published and unpublished community pieces from the last three decades, gives me an almost painful pleasure. He is the eternal teen poet, the timeless Beat, the premodern postmodern. He is Walt Whitman, Ezekiel, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Scheherazade, Carlos Fuentes, Allen Ginsberg, Frida Kahlo, Groucho and Karl Marx, Emily Dickinson, Santana, Lao Tzu, and Octavio Paz rolled up and squeezed through dreams of Aztlan and justice and jazz. He is Floricanto. And 187 Reasons, more than anything he has written, is his autobiography."—Tom Lutz, author of Doing Nothing, Crying, and Cosmopolitan Vistas"Juan Felipe Herrera has written a giant verbal mural bursting with the inventiveness, rhythmic colorings, social engagement and humor — in forms of poetry, litany, and autobiography — that reveal not only the greatness but the absolute necessity of Chicano culture. This is a major generational work by a brilliant practitioner of the art of living the word."—Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of the City of San Francisco"There are at least 187 reasons why you should read Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border. A very abbreviated list would include: Because it is some of the strongest poetry, memoir, satire, and theater that you will find in one book- Because within it are over forty years of artfully recorded passion, anger, engagement, humor and love- Because it will carry you across, over and through languages, borders, and cultures revealing truths, asking hard questions, and insisting we see the power not only on of writer as witness, and the power of writer as memory, but the power of writer as conscious revolutionary striving towards a more just and humane world- Because it is a pleasure that will awaken and engage all of your senses as it touches and does not let go of your heart."– devorah major author of Brown Glass Windows, Open Weave, street smarts and Where River Meets Ocean."Aware, phosphorescent and immediate, this is language brilliantly engaged. Juan Felipe Herrera is simultaneous lighthouse and lightning, the flash that carries the warning and the live wire. For three decades now Herrera’s hot-colored Surrealism has transmitted one of the strongest border radio signals of alt-poetics from the Mission District to St. Mark’s Poetry Project, from the Taos Poetry Circus to Bisbee, from the first Floricantos of the Bay Area or cross-border exchanges in Tijuana and D.F., Chiapas and Yucatan to San Diego, L. A., Austin and beyond. This poetics makes a practice of making a difference. Here available together for the first time are wide-ranging selections from dozens of Herrera’s outstanding ‘experimental’ mixed-genre books, many of which had eccentric or limited original distribution. Contextualized with photos, historical notes and chronology, 187 Reasons serves up both continental panorama and meta-document in the practice of a poetics that comes alive with startling vitality---across borders of political silence and censorship of the Other, semiotic deserts and actual killing fields."– Sesshu Foster author of Atomik Aztex and American Loneliness: Selected Poems
| Sep 11, 2008 |
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border contains amazing poetry, anti-poetry, narratives and short stories of Herrera's works for over 35 years. This book gathers the "undocuments" from 1971-2007, and reading it you can watch the history of the Mexicano unfold before you, it is as though Herrera has painted a wall, a wall of graffiti. Art many willingly accept yet others will walk right past never daring to look too hard. This wall is sometimes disjointed, uncomfortable, and awkward, but that is the life of the Mexicano in this world, and that is the beauty of the picture Juan Felipe Herrera lays before his readers. Also like a graffiti wall in that you get little snippets of love and hate, of peace, of war, of pride and self-consciousness. Each story or poem gives glimpses, which alone would be beautiful, but in this compilation they become completed as all together they form a whole. Reading through the undocuments, some really captured me, drove me to a new level of compassion and understanding, while others were most likely targeting someone else. Just as walking through an art exhibit some pieces you cannot tear yourself from, others you barely notice...and understand that each viewer/ reader will take home a completely different experience. Herrera will meet you where you are. He will challenge you at the place you now find yourself.
Herrera goes beyond these borders and also captures the relations between the landinos and the indios of Mexico and the full America Latina. He goes out of his way to show us the differences, the similarities, and the life, that if we are not living are not aware of the difficulty that comes with it. Yet, this is not only a text full of sadness, pain and suffering, it is just as full of pride, loyalty, love, and acceptance. It is a modern day Tarzan call to all those who will hear, it is a cry that rings throughout the nations, a call that when read cannot be ignored, it is a cry mostly for truth, and justice. It is a call to be prideful of your heritage, to not give in to smoothing differences, to not change the way you appear to yourself or to the critics around you. In 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border, Herrera displayed one thing with the loudest voice: injustice. He gave injustice a voice- a jagged, crunchy, palpable voice.
| Apr 22, 2008 |
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