Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. His publications include fourteen collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children, with over twenty books total.
During the last three decades Herrera has received numerous awards and fellowships including various National Endowment for the Arts Writers' Fellowships, four California Arts Council grants, the UC Berkeley Regent's Fellowship, the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship.
His literary endeavors have garnered the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Americas Award, and the Focal Award. Herrara is also a community arts leadership builder with youth-at-risk and migrant communities, and an actor with appearances on film and stage. The Upside Down Boy, a musical for young audiences based on his book, was well received in New York City in 2004.
Juan Felipe Herrera
My word against theirs, my sickle humor
against their last glass of chianti. Simple,
Direct and compassionate—in a way, let us say,
it is in my nature to be generous: to remind
the passengers about the last stop in Anguish-
town, to spell integration with an X, to scrub
the word Prison with sneaky vastness inside.
It is my own penchant for skull symphonies
my embossed headdress, especially, that brings
me to your carpeted doom-time; this flowery intro
serves a purpose; every spirit strand is an exit,
a cash & carry star of exits and entrances.
El ángel de la guarda
(The Guardian Angel)
I should have visited more often.
I should have taken the sour pudding they offered.
I should have danced that lousy beggar shuffle.
I should have painted their rooms in a brighter color.
I should have put a window in there, for the daughters.
I should have provided a decent mountain for a view.
I should have nudged them a little closer to the sky.
I should have guessed they would never come out to wave.
I should have cleaned up that mole, the abyss, in the back.
I should have touched them, that's it, it comes to me now.
I should have touched them.
from Lotería Cards and Fortune Poems: A Book of Lives
Linocuts by Artemil Rodrígues
City Lights, 1999