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La Casa de Colores, Hosted by Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2015-

Juan Felipe Herrera Discusses a Lincoln Campaign Poster and Helen Zughaib’s "Prayer Rug for America" with Katherine Blood

SPEAKER: Juan Felipe Herrera, Katherine Blood
EVENT DATE: 2015/09/11
RUNNING TIME: 6 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)

DESCRIPTION:
As part of his "La Casa de Colores" project, Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera visits discusses a Lincoln campaign poster and Helen Zughaib's "Prayer Rug for America" drawing with Katherine Blood.

Speaker Biography: Juan Felipe Herrera is the 2015-2016 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. In 2012, he was named poet laureate of California. Herrera is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for "Half the World in Light" and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1990, Herrera was a distinguished teaching fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and he has taught elsewhere, including in prisons. He is the author of more than 25 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, most recently "Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes," a picture book showcasing inspirational Hispanic and Latino Americans. Herrera's most recent collection of poems is "Senegal Taxi."

Speaker Biography: Katherine Blood is curator of fine prints in the Prints and Photographs Division.

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Response

EL JARDIN: Lincoln Campaign Poster & Prayer Rug for America

As a child, in every home, apartment, or trailer, we had a rug. Or a sacred calendar, dotted with saints, or the flickering of kerosene lamps—or candles! The waving flames and the kaleidoscopes of lights and images opened my imagination. They made my tiny room-worlds dreamy and incredible as the day and night skies. When Katherine Blood from the Library’s Prints & Photographs Division showed me the candidate linen poster of Abraham (Abrem Lincoln), I noticed the stripes and the stars—they reminded me of the play of lights and colors in my childhood rooms. Helen Zughaib’s prayer rug also mesmerized me. In its geometry of triangles and diamonds and stars and colors:  a door, a rug, and an explosion of lights. I was home again. What home was it? What country? Was it one of peace, or revolution? Different approaches to art from different times and cultures are not as different—and distant—as we think. What do you think?

Write a poem with long-lane lines and words that beam into each other because crossing cultures, crossing borders, walking along the stripes and lanes of the sun together, we will become whole.

stars, stripes, diamonds, and prayers (for america)

it is a
			campaign—
	it continues
							has continued
				for ages
		then it—
					ends at the
	tip of the
			revolution
(of course
							this is
			about a
						nation)
& there are
				diamonds they
	do not
			wave in the
							sky or office
		(they could)
					tremble
	under
	your
			knees
ttttthhhhheeeennnnyyyyoooouuuurrriiiissssediiiiaaaammmmooondddsssskkyy

—Juan Felipe Herrera
Poet Laureate of the United States

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Curator's Comments

A visual artist as well as a poet, Juan Felipe arrived at the Prints and Photographs Division full of knowledge, ideas, and appetite. Over the course of two days we looked at a feast’s worth of artworks to grow in El Jardín—The Garden in his La Casa de Colores Poet Laureate project. We then filled-to-overflowing our reading room tables with compelling examples of visual poetry—from an exquisite Rembrandt etching to a portrait of poet Julia de Burgos by contemporary artist Antonio Martorell. Other highlights included prints by San Francisco Bay Area artists; international creators from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Russia; and artists’ personal responses to a wide array of subjects including literature, music, poetry, politics, and history. In turn, Juan Felipe was inspired to create several of his own automatic poems and drawings that have joined our collections as new gifts.

The discussion featured in this short film clip focused on two very different artistic approaches to representing the American flag. The first, one of the Library’s treasures, is an original 1860 presidential campaign banner for Abraham Lincoln and his running mate Hannibal Hamlin. It represented national election goals by featuring Lincoln’s portrait in a blue field surrounded by stars with both candidates’ names printed along the white and red stripes. In contrast is “Prayer Rug for America” by Lebanese-American artist Helen Zughaib. Created in response to the events of September 11th, 2001, it blends American patriotic imagery with motifs related to Islamic prayer and architecture. In the lower right corner of the image, a tiny pair of shoes can be seen inside an interior border made of American flags. As an Arab American artist, Zughaib has consciously created a series of artworks that she hopes will encourage open dialogue and better understanding between two cultures she inhabits directly.

It was a great honor and pleasure to roll out the red research carpet while engaging our wonderful Poet Laureate with some of the Library’s collection riches. Along with my colleagues, we look forward to doing the same for you!   

Katherine Blood
Curator of Fine Prints, Prints and Photographs Division

Related Resources:

Photos that go with the item(s):

H.C. Howard. For President ABRAM LINCOLN. For Vice President, HANNIBAL HAMLIN, 1860, woodcut and lithograph. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/pga/01600/01637v.jpg (image)
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003656570/ (catalog record)

Helen Zughaib. Prayer Rug for America, 2001, gouache drawing. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/ppmsca/01700/01724v.jpg (image)
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010650118/ (catalog record)

Antonio Martorell. Las Antillas Letradas, 2014, portfolio of 27 serigraph/woodcut prints. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014646971/

Artemio Rodríguez. La Lotería VI, 1997, linocut. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Related to book Lotería Cards and Fortune Poems with poems by Juan Felipe Herrera and images by Rodríguez.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014648482/ (catalog record)

Katsushika Hokusai. Shibaura, 1833 or 1834, woodcut. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/jpd/00400/00422v.jpg (image)
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2009615412/ (catalog record)

Leonid Tishkov. Private Moon II (Tea Party), 2007, wax & pigment screenprint. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. From Hand Print Workshop International collection.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014646996/ (catalog record)

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