Wednesday, July 25, 2007

great books brewing and brewed

If you want vision(ary work), soul, grit, beauty, cool to spare, true activism, true generosity, spirit, longevity, poetry, music, flair and boldness from a poet whose vitality has not wavered one bit over the course of twenty-one books, look no further than Juan Felipe Herrera. I have read about four of his books (I need to get reading)---I found a small treasure, The Roots of a Thousand Embraces, in a used bookstore once and felt like I'd hit a goldmine. Then I read Border Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream and Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler, and now---oh, this will be big---you must check out 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border, forthcoming in November 2007 from City Lights Books. Check out the 187express website.


I cannot recall buying two books so different in initial feel and tone but so similar in that they both take sizeable (yet different) risks and yield substantial rewards: Cathy Park Hong's Dance Dance Revolution and Sun Yung Shin's Skirt Full of Black. One reviewer calls Hong's book a work of creative genius, and while I'm not exactly sure what that is, reading Hong's book makes me understand it more. It won the Barnard Women's Poetry Prize and includes a foreword from Adrienne Rich, who wisely gave it this honor. As for Shin's book, I have had the last lines of one of the poems running through my head since I read it a few days ago. The poems make me want to commit them to memory. I now have the image of a "skirt full of black/wings" forever etched in my mind. I don't have the energy for a more detailed review at the moment (decided to just post this quickly as I'm still finishing packing for Guatemala--we finally leave tomorrow), but trust me, you'll be glad you bought these books. Hong's is only in hardback at the moment, but they are both well, well worth your dollar. Marilyn Chin and Jane Jeong Trenka have blurbs for Shin's fine first book of poems.


I read a brand new poem last week called "Jazz" while Armen Nalbandian, Resident Music Director for the Fresno Art Museum, improvised on the piano. He asked me if he could post it on his website, which I was happy about. If you'd like to read it, check it out here. I hadn't even typed it out when I read it that night. But it was fun to read as Armen played. Armen's trio has a new CD coming in September, which I'm excited about. Look out especially for the song "Particles"---awesome, awesome, awesome.


Some of you know that I am the founding editor of In the Grove, a little magazine that has published (erratically and on the cheap) for over ten years. Although we're becoming known for our strange publishing schedule (this is our first in almost two years), we're also known for the strong lineups in each issue. Alongside some great new writers such as David Hurst and Jefferson Beavers, the new issue of In the Grove (#15), Summer/Fall 2007 is now available and includes work by Martin Espada, Brian Turner, Barbara Jane Reyes, Glover Davis, Denise Duhamel, and Nick Carbo. Send me a check for $7 (to In the Grove) and I'll mail you an issue when I get back to the U.S. in mid-August.

* For those kind folks inquiring about when and where I'll be reading from my new book, you can visit my website. A few more readings will be posted soon, but for now, it will be this handful of readings for the fall.

[Peace & blessings-----slowness & accuracy----love & balance] to you.


EILEEN said...

Sun Yung Shin's Skirt Full of Black is TRULY BRILLIANT. One of the most compelling reads I've experienced from poets new to me. And pleasurable read.

Briefly but strongly second-ing yr praise on this book!

Lee Herrick said...

You´re right on the money, Eileen. Thanks!

jenni said...

I'm going to add Juan Felipe Herrera to my reading list. Thanks for the suggestion.

Lee Herrick said...

my pleasure, jenni. i think you'll enjoy his poems.