Juan Felipe Herrera visits the Hispanic Division and discusses the Don Quixote & Pablo Neruda Collections with reference specialist Juan Manuel Pérez, who shows Herrera one of the Library’s three original 1605 copies of “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. View the webcast, read the Poet Laureate’s poem response, and learn more about the collection from the curator.
"Pablo Neruda's poetry book - España en mi corazón / Spain in My Heart -- is made from the pulp of the torn uniforms of soldiers that perished," says Juan Manuel Pérez, reference specialist at the Hispanic Division. "The ones who fought for their homeland during the Spanish Civil War," Juan Manuel says. Neruda's poem was a gift to the people who were suffering, their homeland that was being destroyed -- and the soldier-woven book was a gift to Neruda, the Chilean poet. Today, can poetry can be such a gift and can it be loved so deeply, even in bloody upheavals and turmoil? Reflect on our world experience. Write a poem as an offering to heal its wounds. What materials would you use to stitch it together and place it in the hands of the people?
You -- the ones tumbling in-between the edges
In-between bombs, mortars, AK-47's and the guards
In-between the watchtowers and missiles -- where
Will you go? The gates are closed, the shrapnel
Comes down. Mothers, you still stand, children
Wrapped across your shoulders, boys, as tiny men
Daughters, as tiny women at your side
One with a satchel of tin threads, the other
With eyes faded -- yet you continue toward the abyss
This elegant abyss shaped by whom? The one
agreed upon by whom? Some are let in, notice that, then
A pronouncement is made -- "Lock the doors,
We made our quota." The moon spits and howls
At the same time. You continue in the half-dawn.
Yes, for you - these few lines. Made of gray-blue
Shells, one truck of drowned shoes twisted
and knotted dresses, a pink back-back
with a cartoon of a mouse.
I sing to you
In spite of the flames around us
I sing to you
Juan Felipe Herrera
21st Poet Laureate of the United States
My main objective with Felipe Juan Herrera was to talk about the richness of the Library’s Hispanic collections. As Spain and the world celebrate this year the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, I thought it was appropriate to talk about and show one of LC’s treasures, the 1605 edition of this great work as well as the pirated Lisbon edition and, as examples of the numerous editions in LC’s holdings, the Galician and Quechua editions.
One of the great pleasures I have in my job is the opportunity it gives me to talk and interact with people from all over the world as I try to learn their research interests. Having Felipe Juan Herrera as a guest of the Hispanic Division and talk to him about some of the treasures we have was an experience that I will not forget. I could see that he was really moved as I explained to him the details of Pablo Neruda’s poem España en el corazón, because, as a poet, he understood very well what sentiments and feelings Neruda wanted to transmit to his audience. He showed great interest in our holdings because they not only highlight the richness and variety of the Library’s collections, but also the richness and variety of the Hispanic culture and the impact it has had in this country’s historical evolution. Although we both come from worlds apart (Herrera from the United States and I from Spain), we share one thing: our common Hispanic heritage. This is the thread that binds us. I could tell that he had a great time in the Hispanic Division.
Juan Manuel Pérez
Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division