The nation's first Latinx Poet Laureate offers a meditation on the state of the union in a collection that bears witness to a series of national injustices and tragedy at the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond.
... the book offers a collection of 32 free-flowing fragments that somehow complement each other as echoes, depicting or suggesting the migration of largely anonymous beings waiting to cross the border while seeking a sense of self-worth. Their meditative, hushed voices form an unsuspecting epic of thoughts and sentiments, impressions and images, reflections and even short-circuited dialogues ... These free-wheeling poetic fragments or snapshots...sometimes unfold in a style of stream of consciousness, capturing the intra-historical or quotidian moments of human existence ... What began in Herrera’s Every Day We Get More Illegal as a quiet portrayal of witnessing the effects and experiences of migrating north, soon becomes an edgy yet soulful expression that shows the spectrum of suffering and marginalization of those who are undocumented. But this social environment of quiet distress is not always direct and obvious. Rather, it is usually sublime, encoded, even provocatively subtle. The author uses a method of syllogism through a series of interpretive associations, having the reader deduce, extrapolate, decipher, and decode the situations represented ... this collection is timely, even necessary, to shatter the walls of demagoguery and cruelty against those who are most vulnerable.
Herrera offers a kind of spiritual style guide for a time when solidarity itself is stymied by social distancing ... Cutting across class and ethnic lines that would pigeonhole his poetry, Herrera proclaims that 'this is not a poor-boy story/this is a pioneer story/this is your story,' and recognizes that he used to think he was 'not American enuf/now it is the other way around.' Every Day We Get More Illegal brackets its inspiration from figures of tenacious heroism such as Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela, lining their legacies with the blunt observation that: 'art is not enough/performance is not enough/something is missing don't push it to fill the vacuum.'
A calming and invigorating musicality permeates Herrera's printed poetry ... This sensibility may be unexpected, considering that the title of his latest tome, Every Day We Get More Illegal , seems to foretell a diatribe vibe. Of course, versified tirades would be understandable and even welcome in such a collection ... But the fact that Herrera steers clear of outright anger in his verse is an inspiring testament to the indomitable spirit of many Latinos. It also reflects the poet's inimitable ability to transmute personal outrage into rousing literary songs ... it's an eclectic, eccentric blending of voices and styles. Amid surrealist and symbolist imagery are prose poems, poems that emulate Japanese forms and tones, stream-of-consciousness, spoken word rhythms, verse that liquidly mingles Spanish and English and many other styles, unfettered by categories or without poetic precedent ... What remains threaded throughout Herrera's verse is the musicality--the calming, invigorating melodies that remind us, ever so sweetly, if insistently: Latino lives are beloved.