Every Day We Get More Illegal
Included in Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Poetry Books of 2020 and LitHub's Most Anticipated Books of the Year!
A State of the Union from the nation's first Latino Poet Laureate. Trenchant, compassionate, and filled with hope.
"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
"Herrera has the unusual capacity to write convincing political poems that are as personally felt as poems can be."--NPR
"Juan Felipe Herrera's magnificent new poems in Every Day We Get More Illegal testify to the deepest parts of the American dream--the streets and parking lots, the stores and restaurants and futures that belong to all--from the times when hope was bright, more like an intimate song than any anthem stirring the blood."--Naomi Shihab Nye, The New York Times Magazine
"From Basho to Mandela, Every Day We Get More Illegal takes us on an international tour for a lesson in the history of resistance from a poet who declares, 'I had to learn . . . to take care of myself . . . the courage to listen to my self.' In ways subtle and sometimes proudly loud, this book makes it clear exactly why Juan Felipe Herrera continues to be recognized and sought after for his work. You hold in your hands evidence of who we really are."--Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
"In Every Day We Get More Illegal Juan Felipe Herrera shows off all of his styles. These poems talk directly to America, to migrant people, and to working people. Herrera has created a chorus to remind us we are alive and beautiful and powerful."--José Olivarez, Author of Citizen Illegal
"The poet comes to his country with a book of songs, and asks: America, are you listening? We better listen. There is wisdom in this book, there is a choral voice that teaches us 'to gain, pebble by pebble, seashell by seashell, the courage.' The courage to find more grace, to find flames."--Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
In this collection of poems, written during and immediately after two years on the road as United States Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera reports back on his travels through contemporary America. Poems written in the heat of witness, and later, in quiet moments of reflection, coalesce into an urgent, trenchant, and yet hope-filled portrait. The struggle and pain of those pushed to the edges, the shootings and assaults and injustices of our streets, the lethal border game that separates and divides, and then: a shift of register, a leap for peace and a view onto the possibility of unity.
Every Day We Get More Illegal is a jolt to the conscience--filled with the multiple powers of the many voices and many textures of every day in America.
"Former Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera should also be Laureate of our Millennium--a messenger who nimbly traverses the transcendental liminalities of the United States to then speak from the body politic in confrontation with an enemy system that threatens the networks that make us ethical and humane. Every book he writes becomes his best book and this collection is no exception. He brings unity and vulnerability to this wide-ranging and prophetic volume."--Carmen Gimenez Smith, author of Be Recorder
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About the Author
Juan Felipe Herrera was the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015-2017, the first Latino to receive this honor. The son of migrant farm workers, he was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. His numerous poetry collections include Notes on the Assemblage (2015), 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (2007), Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), and Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999). Notes on the Assemblage was named a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Library Journal, NPR, and BuzzFeed. In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children's literature.
In 2012, Herrera was named California's poet laureate. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. In April 2016, Herrera received the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement from the Los Angeles Times. His other honors include the UC Berkeley Regent's Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.
Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry, opera, and dance theater. His children's book, The Upside Down Boy (2000), was adapted into a musical. His books for young people have won several awards, including Calling the Doves (2001), winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and CrashBoomLove (1999), a novel-in-verse for young adults, which won the Americas Award. His poetry collectionHalf of the World in Light was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in 2009. Herrera lives in Fresno, CA.
PRAISE FOR NOTES ON THE ASSEMBLAGE:
"[This year] Juan Felipe Herrera's Notes on the Assemblage has been a ladder of hope ..."--Ada Limón, The New Yorker
"Herrera's latest collection is a book full of outrages--bigotry, poverty, murder--but not a book that wants to burn things to the ground. The fire that appears again and again in Herrera's poetry exists to illuminate, to make beautiful, to purify."--Eric McHenry, The New York Times
"Juan Felipe Herrera's appointment is a timely one, particularly as we enter an election year that's fraught with the usual anxiety and misinformation about immigration issues. Herrera is a beloved poet whose extensive body of work reminds us that the politicized world of the immigrant, and of the Mexican community within the United States in particular, also participate in shaping the rich cultural identity of American literature."--Rigoberto Gonzalez
"As he assumes his post as the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate--Herrera is releasing a visually acute, punch-in-the-gut collection that shows off both his craft and his heart. Wound even more tightly than his previous collections ... As always, Herrera's signature language is immediate, visceral, in the moment, sometimes razzy-jazzy, and compacted to create intensive feeling. Urgently written and important to read, even if Herrera weren't in the Library of Congress limelight."--Library Journal, starred review
"Notes on the Assemblage provides a splendid introduction to the expansive work of Juan Felipe Herrera, the nation's new poet laureate. ... The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera powerfully conveys the experience of migrants who have languished in detention camps and feel apprehensive as they approach the U.S. border. He also knows, firsthand, the frustration of being labeled 'half Mexican, ' as if he were neither a true Mexican nor a real American ... Herrera's background as a performance artist shows in many poems, which come alive when read aloud. Herrera, who has published multiple poetry collections and young-adult novels, easily handles an array of topics and knows how to capture both the pulse of the news and timeless subjects such as people's deep longings for justice. The collection ends with a moving poem about the nine people killed this year in a South Carolina church: 'they are not 9 they / are each one / alive / we do not know / you have a poem to offer / it is made of action -- you must / search for it run.'"--The Washington Post
"Herrera's new bilingual collection arrives in the same month as his appointment as the 21st US Poet Laureate, and the first ever Hispanic person to hold the office, goes into effect. Herrera offers glorious reflections: 'it can begin with clouds how they fray how they enter / then how they envelop the earth.' He also conjures powerful outcries, like his poem 'Ayotzinapa, ' which honors '42 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School [who] went missing after police in the city of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico opened fire on their buses and kidnapped a group of 43.' And his poem 'Almost Livin' Almost Dyin'' honors Michael Brown, whose death at the hands of a police officer set off protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Herrera offers intimate odes to recently departed poets Wanda Coleman and Jack Gilbert, Jayne Cortez, Phil Levine, José Montoya. This is Herrera at his best, a poet who chronicles our times."--BBC
"This has the feeling of a homecoming, from its dedication to the late Michele Serros to its encomia for Wanda Coleman, Jack Gilbert and Jayne Cortez. And why not? Herrera, the former California poet laureate who was named U.S. poet laureate in June, has long written out of a sense of community. This new collection is generous, unexpected, playful and pointed, reminding us of our shared humanity. 'we are all still burnin', ' he declares in 'Almost Livin' Almost Dyin'.' 'can you feel me swaggin' tall and driving low'"--Los Angeles Times
"In his newest volume of poetry, Notes on the Assemblage, Herrera reflects on the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers, the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, his Mexican heritage, and the meaning of art. Herrera pivots from the political to the poignant, calling out the absurdities and sweet moments of modern life."--The Boston Globe
"Juan Felipe Herrera is at the top of his game ... Concurrent with his assumption of the Laureateship is his new book, Notes on the Assemblage, which shows off this writer's many strengths and varied capacities ... This is deep yet accessible stuff, pertinent to all of this book's political concerns, yet metaphysical and existential in a basic way that any poetry reader can relate to. Herrera, who ambivalently describes himself in another poem as 'One half Mexican the other half/ Mexican, then the half against itself, ' also posits himself as an everyman, as bewildered as the rest of us ... he's ready to carry his poems tall on our behalf, and for us to join him."--Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR Books
"The latest collection from Juan Felipe Herrera, the nation's new poet laureate, covers an expansive range of forms: elegies for lost friends, long polyvocal narratives, ekphrastic poems, language splintered into shapes. Frequently profound and often furious, the collection is at its most agonized when Herrera rages against an epidemic of unjust deaths: '& your body's / on the fence & your ID's in the air & the shots / get fired.' He even fits danger and sorrow into white space."--Camila Domonoske, NPR's The Two-Way
"Newly appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera's Notes on the Assemblage is an urgent, powerful collection with impressive range--Herrera's poignant poems address everything from ongoing political issues in America to his Mexican heritage and experience as the son of migrant workers. Notes on the Assemblage is more than merely important; it is essential, a must-read."--BuzzFeed
"In Notes on the Assemblage, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera appeals to Americans and artists. Herrera's forceful poetry speaks directly and powerfully, like the address of a leader rousing his battalions to action: 'freedom for you for me why do we / not speak.' Looking directly at the most devastating events of our moment--'the man with the choke-hold, ' the '9 killed in Charleston, South Carolina, ' "'Trayvon Martin face down'--he forces us to confront society and its paradoxes. His summons links unadorned, unforgiving description with figurative language: 'each bone / cannot be chained to the abyss'; 'why / does it / blossom torches.' Indeed, the eradication of binaries (law versus freedom; art versus life; Spanish versus English) is central to Herrera's work. Poems throughout the collection appear first in Spanish and then in English. At their most powerful these pieces infuse each language with the other: '"de las cumbres brujas ripping spirit flesh blue madness locuras dentro.' Herrera also obliterates the passive relationship between a work of art and its observer. He is intimately concerned with what art does, 'it follows you passes you dissolves ahead of you where / it is waiting for you when you get there you will not / know it until you see that it is seeing you seeing you.' The stakes of this engagement for our communal body are viscerally felt: 'we are not what we thought--it is / not who we were or / what we want to be.'"--Boston Review