Dear Chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera,
I hope you are well. My name is Josè and I was recently introduced to your poem "All the thoughts at a Football Game." Honestly, at first I was not to excited when my English teacher told me we had to read poems for “Dear Poet” , but as soon as I saw yours I was instantly hooked. It was relieved to finally read a poem from my time that I can relate to very easily and picture myself in that situation. As an athlete and avid fan of all things sports I loved how I the poem connected to my passion.
Now enough about me. I would love to discuss about your beautiful piece of work. While reading the line that really stuck out to me was, “ for the first time—he is a man now.” I liked how sports in this poem almost takes the role of a religion and playing a game is like a right of passage into adulthood. My question to you about this is what did you actually mean when you wrote this line. Furthermore, I enjoyed the imagery of the field and Don Jose Emiliano’s son running. Especially the line, “Finds a route to launch & spin his body toward a shifting goal.” For me this the whole game that is described in poem comes to life and it seems like a movie in my head. Additionally, when you wrote, “ is that my son he says,” you definitely left me with a large impact as i can feel the pride that Don Jose has in his son at this moment and how much he has improved his game, by which I can assume was through hard work.
After reading this poem I had a few questions. Did you play sports? As you were writing this was this from personal experience? What game are you describing/ what was the image in your head? Did you always like to write? Even if you do not choose my letter for "Dear Poet" I would still love to hear back from you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this paper and for making me interested in reading poems again.
What a pleasure to read your letter! Sometimes it takes a letter like yours to make me continue to write — it takes a generation-leap, a letter from another zone of life. Otherwise, I feel like I am talking to myself. For this I bow to you. And I am also very moved that your teacher introduced our Academy poems to you and your class.
Your relationship with the poem is most tender and real. You are right, the poem has to do with the rite of passage what all cultures construct in one way or another. And as you mention it has to do with becoming, with growth and transformation - and the viewers, the sports audience, provide a double-view. From the audience, two people in particular - Melanie and Don Emiliano. You are very insightful on how you speak of these two figures. Most of all you made this poem your own, you, José, took the “ball” and “launched” yourself into the “shifting goal” — your own life-story, your own galaxy-field of meanings. Yes, it is about pride and something unknown too — it is as if Don José no longer recognizes his own son, he is not sure. The son is the shifting goal too. A different son, a man now - what is that?
Oh, yes — about me: well, I never played sports. By chance I was elected as soccer captain in middle school; I have no idea why on earth the coach would ever consider a goofy guy like me, a captain. We won the trophy. Do not ask me how. Poetry was my sport. For me, poetry, like you say, can be like a film — something I see as clear as a crystal, every scene, every move, every item.
Football came to mind as the overall space for this piece. Then again, it became all life, in a way.
(Tip: Goofy, poetry boys, usually, did not wear “Letterman” football jackets (in my generation of the 60’s) — we wrote letters, and played and hung out with tiny a, b, c’s on the infinite green fields of the page).
Keep on enjoying poetry, you are poet yourself, by the way,
Sincerely, your sports friend,
Juan Felipe Herrera, Chancellor
Academy of American Poets
Poet Laureate of the USA