Dear Mr. Herrera:
I hope this letter receives you in good health. My name is Waqar and I’m an 8th grader in South Texas. In March, 2017, I had the unique privilege of watching you at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where you presented a keynote address and poetry reading on the theme of “Poetry and Social Justice.” Frankly speaking, I never cared for the poetry of the 21st century, but when my English teacher introduced me to your work, I was immediately hooked. Your use of literary elements in social commentary through poems such as "You Can’t Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem" and "@ the Crossroads—A Sudden American Poem" truly resonated with me, and I want to formally thank you for that.
My primary reason for writing to you is to appreciate your wonderful work. The poetry critic Stephen Burt helped me understand that your poetry is “an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too." I see you as the first person to master this hybrid form of poetry. From a narrower point of view, I relished your use of sensory details in "Let me Tell You What a Poem Brings;" I could feel my own mouth grow "sour" and "thirsty" as I pondered on the idea of poetry. These details allowed me to realize that poetry is "a way to attain a life without boundaries." All in all, I enjoy the fact that even the subtle details in your work reveal monumental themes.
My favorite poem of yours is "@ the Crossroads—A Sudden American Poem." When I first read this poem, I admired the fact that you were providing social commentary during your time as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Through your commemoration of the victims of police brutality, the deceased Dallas police officers, and the mentally-troubled Afghan war veteran who killed the aforementioned police officers, you complete the near-impossible task of finding light in a dark situation. By encouraging the reader to recognize the "beauty in their lives," you effectively redress the wounds inflicted in our nation by this national crisis. We clearly are at a historic crossroads, where we as a nation must make decisions regarding systematic problems. Overall, this poem helped me realize a universal truth: no matter how tragic a situation may be, hope and goodness can always be found.
I want to sincerely thank you for being a part of the Dear Poet Project and for making my day through your individualistic and exquisite poetry. Even if you don’t write back, I’m satisfied with the fact that I was able to convey to you the positive impact that you have had on me.
San Benito, Texas