cover image Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream

Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream

Juan Felipe Herrera. University of Arizona Press, $15.95 (99pp) ISBN 978-0-8165-1932-3

Anyone who thinks high art and performance poetry don't mix should re-read ""Howl"" and then pick up Herrera's latest, following 1994's Night Train to Tuxtla. Wryly drawing on our expectations of ""ethnic"" poetry (""my Neo-American uzzi mutations, my upgraded/ 2Pac thresholds""), Herrera performs the rare trick of simultaneously speaking from a self-aware, culturally marginalized perspective, while refusing to limit his poetic horizons--as in the tour-de-force opener ""punk half panther"": ""Meet my barriohood, meet me/ with the froth i pick up everyday & everyday/ i wipe away with ablution & apologia & a smirk, then/ a smile on my Cholo-Millennium liberation jacket."" As comfortable surfing the info-glut (""digital in its global suture ticktock of our existence"") as in ""the Kaliwey prayer house of the forgotten hope-shoe makers,"" Herrera's political salvos and satires can be surprisingly lyrical, as if not quite able to give up the idea of beauty: ""You the King: you the tiger speaks the long grain hump, hear/ it sing to you, with a crooked guitar, wine colored string."" This collection puts most academic poetry to shame, and, along with the work of poets like Luis Rodriguez, evidences an opening in the impasse between partisans of street-wise staccato and page-wise pleasure. (Feb.)