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Hooray for La Familia!

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Today marks a milestone for the Poetry and Literature Center: we posted the first segment of the epic poem “La Familia” on our website! This poem is part of Juan Felipe Herrera’s Poet Laureate project, “La Casa de Colores”—this is how he describes it:

La Familia (The Family) is an opportunity for you to contribute to an epic poem of all our voices and styles and experiences that will run the span of my Laureateship. By contributing to La Familia, you will be part of my family—and all our words will be seen and our voices be heard, throughout the nation and beyond.

In the beginning of the Laureate’s term in September, he posted the first of his eight monthly themes for “La Familia,” aptly titled “Family Words and Stories.” Contributors were asked to submit up to 200 characters about family as they saw it, as they experienced it. The focus was on family in any form: one’s immediate family, the family of one’s dreams, the family of friends, or a family that only lasts seconds. Writers were asked to use “family words” and to bring new words into this month’s family of words.

The result was a combination of more than 800 submissions from around the country and internationally. We were thrilled to see such an outpouring of voices, and to read the complex and compelling portrait of family they make. Here are some great examples:

My family is a crazy bunch of people.
Everyone single one of them has done something ridiculous.
But I guess everyone has.
So wait,
that means everyone is my family.


Are the wind-blown seeds caught in my hair
And the ones that float right by.
They are the seeds that follow me around
And the ones that I chase after.
They are the ones that swirl all around me.


Mi familia


Family is laughter. Family is friends sharing a milkshake with two straws, cheering on the sideline for the winning touchdown. It is the graduation cries and the wedding tears that illuminate the emotion. It is arguments of love. Family.

We hope you will take the time to read through the poem—feel free to start at different points, to pick up where your mouse stops and your eye lands, or read from beginning to end. Thanks to all of you who contributed, and for those of you who asked others—family, friends, classes, etc.—to contribute. We also encourage you to contribute to this month’s theme, “Migrants: Portraits and Friendships”—here is Juan Felipe’s powerful appeal:

Every inch of this land is woven with migrant trails. These are pathways from family to family, country to country, and most of all heart to heart. For this month, find a trail and travel through it to a new dream. What do you see in your travels? And how do you make friends along the way? Describe for me in the language of poetry—migrate into new words, use new landscapes of images.