At Egyptian Theatre, Poet Laureate Herrera Hypnotizes With Alternative to Harsh Immigration Realities 

click to enlarge - U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera spoke in Boise Feb. 2. -  - TOMAS OVALLE
  • Tomas Ovalle
  • U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera spoke in Boise Feb. 2.
U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera is more than just a poet: He's a hypnotist.

At his Readings and Conversations talk, delivered Feb. 2 at The Egyptian Theatre courtesy of The Cabin, the first Chicano poet laureate of the U.S. opened with a reading of "America Stop Deporting Us," which he implored the audience to read along with him. By the end of the long poem, he had trained almost the entire audience to repeat lines word for word.

"America Stop Deporting Us," which Herrera said was inspired by Alan Ginsberg and "other recent events," invokes the harsh realities of immigration in the U.S., but it's far from a downer poem. Rather, it offers an alternative that involves common sense, good humor, music and guacamole that became the evening's unspoken theme.

Herrera's readings alternated between sunshiny portraits and slices of life, and tender reminders that America remains an imperfect place, rife with violence, prejudice and neglect toward those who don't enjoy cultural, political or economic dominance.

The intended—successful—result was programming the audience to do something natural: Choose to live in a pleasant world rather than an intolerant one. The author of more than 30 books of poetry, prose and children's literature, Herrera ended his talk with words of wisdom for people seeking to make that choice through dialogue and protest.

"Keep your heart at the center," he said.
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