January 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Literatura de Cordel with Juan Felipe Herrera

The man who graces the front cover of our winter issue is US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. The Library of Congress honored the California-born poet with that title in June of last year, and since that time, Herrera has been active on the LOC's website, editing the many submissions to his web-based epic poem, La Familia (The Family), but also showcasing some of the library's resources in El Jardin (The Garden).

Lampioes0047_180.jpgIn one of his El Jardin webcasts produced last fall at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center, Herrera and folklife specialist Margaret Kruesi discuss literatura de cordel, a Portuguese term for "literature on a string" because these booklets are literally displayed on a string in Brazilian street markets. (See the 7-minute video here.) Herrera talks about the art of poetry, and the importance of "cheap" chapbook editions to poets even today. Then, he wrote a poem about it.

For more information about literatura de cordel, go here.

Image: Lampiões by Alexandre José Felipe Cavalcanti d'Albuquerque Sabaó Saboia [a.k.a. Dila], no date (acquired 1986). Woodcut probably by the author. The outlaw and folk hero Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, known as Lampião, and his gang of bandits are a frequently recurring subject of cordel poetry, songs, and illustrations. AFC 1970/002:M00156.