As part of our Searching for Democracy initiative, California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera blogs for us on what gives him hope for primavera in our democracy.
This miracle of poets in the making…
11 am. En route to Sacramento to judge the California Out Loud poetry recitation championships. 33 counties compete. The California Arts Council houses us at the Grand Sheraton. Takes me back to ’62 when I realized I couldn’t live in a shell of silence. So I hit the stage in middle school—forever. Former Laureate Al Young & I chat about this miracle of poets in the making. They recite Donne, Dickenson, Ríos, Levine, Wheatley. Their eyes go through me as I ponder the sheet of six presentation criteria. It is no use. They are majestic, golden, angelic. Three rounds they go—then, somehow, the next day on the Senate floor of the Capitol, three remain: second runner-up Jonathon Bermeo in a violet mystery shirt, Mohammad Shehata with the ease of water & the winner, Corbin Gomez, a baritone, hair at 85 degrees flying up. I am struck by their love—for art, painting, poetry, “ready for the world.” What is that called? Life? Run to Governor Brown’s office to get sworn in as the new Cali Poet Laureate. My hand is up. I too recite the words—as Governor Brown reads the oath. We chat about T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” & a dash of Camus. Head home. This is what I call Primavera California, poetry wherever you go—& it grows on you.
Juan Felipe Herrera
California Poet Laureate
Project Primavera California
Look for more entries in the Project Primavera California series soon!
Photo credit: Brian Baer, California Arts Council