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Senegal Taxi (Camino del Sol)by Juan Felipe Herrera
Synopses & Reviews
and#8220;I wish I could find the words to tell you the story of our village after you were killed.and#8221; So begins Senegal Taxi, the new work by one of contemporary poetryand#8217;s most vibrant voices, Juan Felipe Herrera. Known for his activism and writings that bring attention to oppression and injustice, Herrera turns to stories of genocide and hope in Sudan. Senegal Taxi offers the voices of three children escaping the horrors of war in Africa.
Unflinching in its honesty, brutality, and beauty, the collection fiercely addresses conflict and childhood, inviting readers to engage in complex and often challenging issues. Senegal Taxi weaves together verse, dialogue, and visual art created by Herrera specifically for the book. Stylistically genre-leaping, these many layers are part of the collectionand#8217;s innovation. Phantom-like televisions, mud drawings, witness testimonies, insects, and weaponry are all storytellers that join the siblings for a theatrical crescendo. Each poem is told from a different point of view, which Herrera calls and#8220;mud drawings,and#8221; referring to the evocative symbols of hope the children create as they hide in a cave on their way to Senegal, where they plan to catch a boat to the United States.
This collection signals a poignant shift for Herrera as he continues to use his craft to focus attention on global concerns. In so doing, he offers an acknowledgment that the suffering of some is the suffering of all.
"Herrera (Half the World in Light) has become nationally famous for his many ambitious, jagged, nonlinear, sometimes performance-based poems and scenes from Mexican-American life: his profile spiked when he became, in 2012, poet laureate of California. This first volume since then shows his fierce and innovative spirit, his sense of global responsibility, and his attention to voice and character; its frightening prose blocks, fictional interview transcripts, anguished verse recollections, puzzling concrete poems ('one one one one one') and gestural visual art follow the child refugees and tormented former soldiers of Darfur in the years of the Janjaweed and their attempts at genocide, on its way to the birth of the new nation South Sudan. One of its 'ghost children' tries to 'raise a classroom with sticks... Set the table with mud'; some children escape Darfur in the eponymous taxi, finding their way to Brooklyn. 'Kalash,' the Kalashnikov rifle, becomes both a symbol and a menacing character; a former militiaman baffles an obtuse American as he tries to account for his dreams. The sequence exists on the border between creative nonfiction and expressionistic response to catastrophe. It may not add much to what journalists have already shown Americans about this conflict, and yet it adds, to the poetry of international witness, Herrera's compelling and quick-witted voice." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Juan Felipe Herrera is at his best in his first original collection in several years. In Senegal Taxi, Herrera brings attention to global oppression and injustice through poems that address genocide and hope in Africa.
About the Author
Juan Felipe Herrera is a noted writer, poet, and playwright. He is a professor of creative writing in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. In 2012 he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as Californiaandrsquo;s Poet Laureate, and he is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry.and#160;He has published twenty-eight books, including Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award.
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