Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems for Teens and Young Adults from Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe HerreraNew U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, son of migrant workers, writes often about his child self and writes poems for children and teens. Now that he’s poet laureate of the country, his books are being rediscovered. I found his beautiful, Laughing Out Loud, I Fly, illustrated by Karen Barbour.  In his preface to this collection of poems in English and Spanish, he writes that when he was seventeen years old he discovered Picasso’s book of poems, Hunk of Skin and says he was “bathed in sunlight.” He said he was inspired by “Picasso’s love of seeing and hearing things differently.” He opens with lines from a poem by Picasso:

& a quail a flower vase an inkwell

a plugged nickel a blackbird

a story a pencil a jug…..   –Pablo Picasso from Hunk of Skin

Readers will see how reading Picasso, noting his style, totally captivated Herrera, and see how in some ways his writing is shaped by this voice. Herrera writes that he sat at this brother-in-law’s table in San Jose and wrote this book.  Here are a few lines from “Went to the Marketplace & I Bought Beautifuls”

“I went to the marketplace & I bought beautifuls

a swollen street pear, a starry nail

on this side of the corner, milk and slippery bread

and the afternoon light…”

Herrera speaks for children growing up in two cultures through the creation of his characters in his picture books, novels and poems. And he takes great joy in sharing Mexican culture and the Spanish language mixed with English, mixing cultures all up.

As poet laureate, Herrera has invited everybody – all of us, all our ages – to contribute to an epic poem about the American experience as part of his poetry project,  La Casa De Colores. The house of colors, he says, is “a house for all voices.”

3 comments for “Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems for Teens and Young Adults from Juan Felipe Herrera

  1. September 30, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Juan Filipe Herrera’s poetry is so fresh, so startling, and so full of new ways of seeing and thinking. Try some. I had the privilege to hear him speak in person and he was both amazing and so relaxed and “real,” as if he were a familiar next-door-neighbor or one of your favorite teachers. Nancy Bo Flood

  2. September 30, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I would love to meet him. Just look at his charming smile and the cool cap he wears and you feel like you’re related.

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