US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera visited Tucson to take part in the Tucson Festival of Books last weekend, delivering a standing-room only reading and a special panel with Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos, moderated by Adela Licona, the Interim Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona. The panel was a feature program of the Poetry Coalition, a group of aligned poetry organizaitons, and their national collaborative effort this March, "Because We Come From Everyting: Poetry and Migration." The panel explored the relationship between imaginative language and migration, particularly as it relates to the border region, bilingualism, and cultural growth. Among much wonderful and important thinking, Ríos reminded that "Nobody grows up on one side of the border. The story is complex," and suggested that borders aren't where two countries or cultures end, but instead where a third, creative, new possiblity begins, richly hybrid and full of imaginative opportunity. Herrera reminded of the importance of telling the story of lived experiences from the borderlands, noting "When we tell our stories, we feel a libration lightening bolt." The panel concluded with a performative, impromptu call-and-response reading by both Ríos and Herrera of one of Herrera's new poems, modeled on Allen Ginsburg's famous "America."
Herrera also took part in a visit to Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet school, and participated in the press conference where Tucson Mayor Johnathan Rothschild named Tucson's newest Poet Laureate, TC Tolbert. The Davis Elementary visit was a part of the Poetry Center's Writing the Community program and was made possible in part by a gift from the Dianne Bret Hart Matinee program at the Poetry Center, pairing visiting writers in local schools. An additional gift from the Pitt Family Foundation provided a free copy of one of Herrera's books for each child in the school. Herrrera told the story of the line "You have a beautiful voice" to the Arizona Daily Star's Kathy Allen, noting that it had come from a teacher who was supporting Herrera when he struggled with English in elementary school.
The visit was covered by Tucson television stations KOLD, KVOA, and KGUN.