Jose Faus introduced the current US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, saying about him,
"Everything that that man does is about weaving that tapestry together that is America.... Juan Filipe is everything I know we can be... The man has a pulse that is our beat. He is what America is."
Juan Filipe read his own poetry and one poem handed to him earlier that day from a local poet titled, Brown eyes in Blues." The local poet received a standing ovation.
Juan Filipe responded to 'Brown Eyes in blues' with "our hearts get healed...." when we write poetry like this. He began with, "Everyone here is a poet....This is good....We have amazing beautiful creative poets in Kansas City." After two standing ovations and applause for the president, love, and all that is holy-- I'd say that American poets when they get together are rather patriotic. Everyone in the room felt the love.
What does a poet laureate do? That is a good question. Juan Felipe Herrera listens to people, visits communities. Reads his work and starts amazing projects. He is creating a video program about our cultural heritage at the Library of Congress. And he has created a poem anyone is invited to write in any language called Casa De Colores. He is working on a huge poetry installation with children in Chicago. And another project to translate women's literature into English from other languages.
His well-known story of his third grade teacher telling him, "You have a beautiful voice" was told again at the request of the audience. That is Juan Felipe Herrera's message to everyone. That we have beautiful voices to share in this world. I went home ready to write.
What kind of writing. Juan Felipe writes like a painter paints. He has an entire book written in the style of Picasso's paintings, like making "salsa" he described the process. The whole audience repeat lines and phrases with him showing created syncopated rhythms.
Reading his poem 'Papaya' in English and Spanish so we could "learn a new rhythm." Obviously to anyone who meets him, Juan Felipe teaches a new rhythm of joy, life, love and playing with language. He had never visited Kansas City before until today. Thank you Juan Felipe Herrara for visiting Kansas City. Thank you for tellings us we all have beautiful voices.
The teacher said
"you have a beautiful voice."
and one voice
can lead an ocean of people
in a new song.