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Wednesday Shout Out
As the second winner of The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize hits the bookstore shelves (future shout out, y’all) I am reminded of one of Montoya’s early champions, poet Lee Herrick, founder and editor of In the Grove, where Montoya’s first published poems appeared. Sadly, Montoya’s only book the ice worker sings was published posthumously in 1999, a year after his premature death at the age of 31. Since then, a collective effort by writers of all stripes has kept his memory and art alive. Hence the memorial poetry prize spearheaded by Letras Latinas of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame, hence the following poem in Herrick’s debut collection of poetry:
For Andrés and Eleanor
Love heals from the inside.
Last night I left the back door open
and let the moon’s breeze come over me,
and yes, I could hear you, Eleanor.
I could hear you whisper Andrés’ name
into the darkening sky and call out
the ice worker and all of his songs.
This morning, when the moon was still there
begging for one more song, I crawled out
of bed and thought of you again. I wish
Andrés, that there would be one more hour
at the café. I wish
God might declare it all a joke, but
I know how much He wanted you and
how much you wanted Him, too. This is what counts.
So I’ll leave you alone. I’ll go now
to the sun and imagine actions of
angels, sweetened from the sun,
whispering to the moon about revolution.
The references to Montoya’s book title, to his religious and political leanings, and to his fiancée, Eleanor Uribe, make this poem a personal and touching elegy that still communicates the intensity of absence even if the reader is not privy to the insider information. And I’m particularly struck by the final line that owns up to the various readings with the word “revolution”: 1. the action by a heavenly body of going round in an orbit; 2. rotation; 3. a sudden, radical, or complete change.
Herrick’s book is a collection of contemplations, observations and insights. From the series of “Korean Adoptee” poems (in conversation with the poet’s personal identity), to the more abstract concepts of the titles “Gravity” and “Salvation,” to the navigation through historically complex spaces like Fresno, California (Herrick’s and Montoya’s hometown), Oaxaca City and Guatemala, this poet is in constant search for solace and sanctity. And he finds them in the ubiquitous imagery that makes any place feel like home.
(From Lee Herrick’s This Many Miles from Desire, published by WordTech Editions, 2007. Used with the permission of the author.)