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Notes on the Assemblage

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The Books We Love in 2016 - The New Yorker

Best Poetry Collections of 2015 - The Washington Post

Best Books 2015: Poetry - Library Journal

Best Books of 2015 - NPR Books

16 Best Poetry Books of 2015 - BuzzFeed Books

Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino Poet Laureate of the United States and son of Mexican immigrants, grew up in the migrant fields of California.

Exuberant and
Paperback, 104 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by City Lights Publishers
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Benjamin Kass
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it
There are some real bangers here, but there are a few that shouldn't have left the notebook. When he's hot, it's as powerful as anything you've read. The fire of jewels like "Ayotzinapa" and "And if the man with the choke-hold" just isn't sustained, though
Kite Miya
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Juan Felipe Herrera’s book, Notes On the Assemblage, is a solemn and powerful collection of poems that captures the rising tensions and anxieties of social and political actions within the borders of the United States and internationally. He includes prose poems as well as free verse poems, ekphrastic poems, and dialogue poems. His topics include the plight of Hispanics and Mexican immigrants, artwork, and horrific events that have occurred to certain individuals (or groups of individuals). ...more
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Juan Felipe Herrera’s Notes on the Assemblage is a searingly honest collection on the contemporary human experience. The collection opens with “it can begin with clouds,” a poem and allegory for the cyclical nature of life and history, but it quickly launches into a deep musing of contemporary acts of social injustice, racial oppression, and murder. It is extraordinary that Herrera, who in 2015 was named the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate since 1937, is able to use his now very public voice to ...more
Vincent Hiscock
like Kerouac, Herrera wants to get into IT!-catholic transubstantiation gone zen on the groaning blue note of a bop apocalypse; he listens, sees, riffs, improvises, hoping for the sure stroke of a right line in the right time. punctuation's out the window, so one must speak, intone, or sing these poems to find the syntax, to follow the abrupt turns of thought, which often link through a non sequitor association with a single world and over time reveal the exquisite idiosyncrasies, mental frames, ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is an explosive, diverse, and ambitious book of poetry by the newly-ordained US Poet Laureate - the first Latino to ever hold that title. Here is a collection of thirty-eight poems, organized into eight sections; each section takes its name from one of the poems within it. The topics range from USA/Mexico immigration, to the treatment of Black Bodes by our justice system, to works of art and music, to the very makeup of our identities as humans in this world. There is so much to unpack in ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Both a performance and visual poet, Juan Felipe Herrera plays to all his strengths in his newest collection of poems, Notes on the Assemblage. Throughout his collection, Herrera echoes the performance style of the Beat poets. Poems like his “Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew” and “Radiante (s)” require the reader to speak the poem out loud, luxuriating in the sounds of each word, much like one would with Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra.” Alongside these performance poems, Herrera ...more
Roya Sabri
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As its title suggests, Notes on the Assemblage is a collage of language, imagery, and culture. But the items that compose Herrera’s assemblage do not remain completely distinct. At times, they bleed. Herrera’s poetry models what happens in life. In America, the boundaries between American and Mexican cultures and languages bleed; in the mind, the boundaries between reality and the imagined bleed. What we end up with in Notes on the Assemblage is a book that opens with clouds and closes with a ...more
Andy Kim
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Juan Felipe Herrera composed Notes on the Assemblage as US Poet Laureate, and through it, he truly does a service to his readers (and his nation) by so beautifully presenting contemporary issues and events that need to be addressed. These are the issues that should be on our mind: on race, on work, on war, on terror, the list goes on and on. Exactly in what ways can we make our world better? Herrera has taken a first step for us. Perhaps, he has even taken a second and third. He raises issues, ...more
J.J. Amaworo
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here, as always, Herrera defies categorization. At one moment he writes about social issues – the 43 murdered Mexican students, Syria, police killings of African Americans. Then you turn the page and Herrera has become the heir of Wallace Stevens – a trickster, a master of language that dances in the mind. There are also the joyful echoes of Ginsberg and the Beats, ee cummings, and Burciaga.

This collection consists of eight sections, each named for one of the poems therein. The first section, “
Jerry Landry
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
A very powerful and timely collection of poems. Herrera directly addresses national events of the modern day (Ferguson, Mother Emanuel AMC, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, illegal immigration, and others) and puts them in the context of a shared cultural and historical heritage, both good and bad. He breaks down recent tragedies in a way to make them highly personal no matter the reader's background and leaves us with hope that "poem by poem / we can end the violence". His poetry is not just found ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Herrera is a wonderful poet well worthy of the position of US Poet Laureate. I bought this book because I heard him recite Borderbus, among other poems from various points in his career, at a literary festival. It's a good collection, but if you can swing going to a reading of his I highly recommend it - he is immensely charismatic and his poetry takes on a whole new life when read aloud.
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't get a lot of poetry, but I ~think~ I got at least a handful of the poems in this collection. I thought the imagery was well done and the emotion conveyed well, too.

(I read this because it was included on a B&N list of what Rory Gilmore might be reading now. #nerdalert)
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
*4.5 Stars*

Herrera is the voice of the people, using the power of words to hold his readers rapt. Each piece pushes and pulls, shouting out, demanding to be read aloud.
Sep 18, 2015 marked it as to-read
poet laureate interviewed on npr
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not a huge poetry reader but I picked this up at City Lights. Good politically motivated pieces about racism, immigration, war. My favorite was "you throw a stone."
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aмерика, poetry
if you like public enemy you will like this. at least one will give you chills.
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poets-laureate
Poetry in eight sections with a stand-alone poem. There's a series about people who have passed on, and another about paintings. Herrera has a casual relationship with punctuation, perhaps encountering each other on the street occasionally, but nothing more serious. His leftist politics are on display in some pieces, though not constantly.

"Notes on the Assemblage"
"Hard Hooks that Fold You Down to Your Knees" - for Jack Gilbert (two-time finalist for the poetry Pulitzer)
"In the mid of
Michael Quigg
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library, poetry
This was a random purchase I made from a shopping day and I'm real happy to have this as part of my collection. Herrera's verse has such a pleasant flow, even (in some cases, especially) when dealing with heavy themes such as identity, displacement, barriers, and revolution. I have to especially highlight the chapter "Borderbus," an effective centerpiece to the collection that uses experimental forms, seemingly reaching from the pockets of e.e. cummings, to hit the reader with some honest ...more
David Miller
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This volume of poems is challenging and singular - a worthy book for a poet laureate. The style is a little more free than my usual taste, but most pages benefit from re-reading and the subject matter is fully relevant to any potential reader.

I enjoyed in particular the various ways Spanish and English were blended together in several poems. It's a kind of poetry our more stubborn monoglots could bear to learn from, something that really reflects who this country represents.
Theresa Malloy
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This collection of poems absolutely blew my mind. They were provocative, thoughtful and so relevant to everything going on in our world right now. This is the first collection of poems by a U.S. Latino poet laureate. His poems range from quirky oddities to tributes to the lives of those lost in police shootings and stories of immigrants crossing the border. They're beautiful and intriguing. It was hard to put it down.
Scott Wiggerman
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Notes on the Assemblage is a mixed bag--the good poems are really good, but other poems seem like filler, including "The Soap Factory," which I heard him read and bring to life a month or so ago. It might be that the performance-based pieces just don't work as well on the page. But there are definitely some amazingly powerful poems in this collection.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This was not an easy book of poetry, both in topic and form. There are several powerful poems that I loved but also ones with which I struggled. Herrera uses inventive language and construction and I sometimes felt like I would have benefited from the spoken word.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
My first Latin American poetry collection and I enjoyed it. The original Spanish reads much more beautifully than the translation but the English poems are just as good.
My favorite from this collection- 'Lucid and Undecipherable Tasks'
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wanted to read a volume of poetry by the poet laureate who also wrote the children's book Imagine recently. This was a great one. Herrera's viewpoint and subject matter shows his values, interests and concerns in context. I appreciated his use of Spanish and English together and separately.
Scott Golden
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
[I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.]
Strong on passion and imagery, less so (at least to this reviewer's taste) on communicating ideas to his readers. I dunno, maybe it's me.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
An eclectic mix of poems exploring America in all its forms, literary traditions, cultures, and languages. Touching on immigration and border crossings, police shootings of black men, and poetry itself, this is a timely and at times gorgeous collection
May 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
(2.5 stars, rounded down)
Maughn Gregory
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In my next life I want to be a civil rights poet like Herrera.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I am not much of a poetry reader, but I liked this a lot. Some very powerful words.
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Juan Felipe Herrera is the only son of Lucha Quintana and Felipe Emilio Herrera; the three were campesinos living from crop to crop on the roads of the San Joaquín Valley, Southern California and the Salinas Valley. Herrera's experiences as the child of migrant farmers have strongly shaped his work, such as the children's book Calling the Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats award in 1997. He is a ...more