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Skidmore College

Identity poetry

March 23, 2016
Blood on the fender, in the sender's shoe, in his liquor sack
Blood on the street, call it Milagro Boulevard, Mercy Lanes #9
Blood on the alien, in the alligator jacket teen boy Juan

That's a stanza from "Blood on the Wheel," by America's Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera. The rhythmic litany weaves imagery of blood through the lives of migrants and laborers, women and children, prostitutes and hoodlums, Mexicans and Bosnians. Herrera's other poems are spare, or partly prose, or as much visual as verbal-a diversity he will bring to a reading at Skidmore on Wednesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in Gannett Auditorium of Palamountain Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera has won numerous honors for his poetry and novels, as well as his performance art and activism on behalf of migrants, at-risk youth, and others. He became U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015.

Herrera books

Professor Viviana Rangil organized his Skidmore visit. In the Spanish-language discussion section of her course on Latino/a identities in literature, she says, "on the first day of class I read out one of his poems." She predicts students across the college will enjoy Herrera's public reading because "his poetry is very socially conscious and up-to-the-minute with international news and issues. He's also a performer, he has written books for children as well as adults, and he writes in both English and Spanish. He writes for a wide range of poetic tastes."

His time on campus will include a brown-bag lunch session, where he'll interact with students from Rangil's course as well as from an international affairs course on the U.S.-Mexico border, a study of Latino/a history, and courses in Spanish and Latin American studies.

The public event on March 23 begins at 7 p.m. Herrera will be awarded a Skidmore honorary degree, give a poetry reading, and engage in a Q&A with the audience. Afterward, at a reception outside Gannett, Northshire Bookstore of Saratoga Springs will cohost a book-signing by the author.

The event is co-sponsored by the Latin American Studies Program and World Languages and Literatures Department; the Offices of the President, the Dean of the Faculty, and the Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity; and the student Speakers Bureau and the student club Raices.

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