New U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, son of migrant workers, writes often about his child self and writes poems for children and teens. In his preface to Laughing Out Loud, I Fly, 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.” And 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…”
He 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, 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.”
This is a bittersweet fishing story. This morning as I write, fisherman Mike Pawluk is steaming toward Montauk on the Kirsten Lee, a boat he went ground fishing on for about fourteen years. He fished with Captain Steve Lee and they were friends and still are. They’d been through changing fishing regulations together, documenting days at sea, to the quotas and catch share plans. Shrimping closed a few years ago. Mike says the fish weren’t there. The Gulf of Maine was warming. And it was hard not to pull up cod which is restricted. Long long story short. The Kirsten Lee is sold to people on Long Island. Mike was my technical expert on all things fishing as I wrote the story of Johnny, a NH fisherman, and Sofie, his daughter in my novel that comes out this week, Either the Beginning or the End of the World. He told me so many things about the moon and he’ll do this journey on the day of the super moon when it will be enormous and red. The sweet part: Mike got his own boat, a small boat, and he’s had the best season lobstering in his years of fishing.
One day when Mike and a crewman were fishing on the Kirsten Lee 40 miles off Chincoteague. The crewman became sick and had to be airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter from the boat. Here’s a picture of the Kirsten Lee from above, taken by the rescue team in the helicopter.
You can hear many fisherman tell their stories. My daughter, Elizabeth Farish, collected oral histories of New Hampshire fishermen when she was Regional Site Manager for Historic New England, based in Portsmouth.
The Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival, formerly Riverfest, happens every August on the Merrimack River in Lowell, Massachusetts. There’s everything Cambodia. Music, dance, ginger trees to buy, golden bracelets, river boats, lime papaya salad. I went with our family friend who is also a photographer, Ty Paterson, and she took these photos at the last celebration. She is also an interpreter of the Cambodian culture for me.