"Today I am going to the grocery store," begins Javier O. Huerta's American Copia: an Immigrant Epic. This is the sentence the INS required him, as part of his naturalization process, to write in order to prove his English language proficiency. Huerta, now a graduate student at UC Berkeley, at the time of this momentous event, was an English major at the University of Houston and had been living in the U.S. for over 20 years. In his preface, he states, "I wanted to tell the INS agent that I could do things with the English language that she could never imagine. Instead I settled for showing her that the sentence scans as iambic pentameter."
Huerta apologizes for his arrogance, alluding to his Americanized sense of entitlement, and hones in on the task of dissecting that entitlement as well as accessibility — to healthy, low-cost foods, to education, to security in the places we call home.
In this collection of poems, Huerta blurs the line between genres and offers readers poetry, short fiction, even a play. When asked in an interview why it is called a volume of poetry, he replies simply, "because I am a poet."
Indeed, he is. And it is with a poet's heart and deep need to explore, specifically in this volume, all aspects of one going to the grocery store, what it means to have that ability, what it means that grocery stores are available, what we buy, what we buy into, what we claim, where we are welcome, and where we are not — and we are invited to explore along with him:
On day 253 of 1987 Alien # A090891109 and his little brother
Alien # A090891110 will go to
supermercado #3 with
their mother Alien # A090891108. And this is poetry.
American Copia: An Immigrant Epic
By Javier O. Huerta
Arte Público Press
$14.95, 96 pp