You Can't Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem

By Juan Felipe HerreraJune 4, 2016

You Can't Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem

You Can't Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem

If you did —

       it would

            knock you down (remember Liston) &


    you were

     still stand

        ing                   you would

                have to

bust out (remember the March on Washington)

          of your shakin' vaulted

   poor thinkin' self (oh yes!)

           & change (that's right!)

this big 'ol world (say it!)

 & if                            you did —   You (yes, you)

   would have to battle w/words & rhymes & body & time — for

your New Idea — (did you hear that ) you would

              have to

 endure   (i hear you ) & propose (what?)

          a new name for                     all

( a new name?)

it could be Peace

     it could be Unity (sounds easy)

        but this poem     cannot

              provide this

               or       contain this

 Word       — (Watch out!)

here it comes! &

        it's gonna to sting like a bee

— Juan Felipe Herrera

Poet Laureate of the United States

LARB Contributor

Born in Fowler, California — learned corridos and rhymes from his mother, Lucha, on the farm working roads and small towns. His father, Felipe, played harmonica telling tales of work in early 1900’s Wyoming. He graduated from UCLA, Stanford and the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. His awards include the Guggenheim Poetry Fellowship, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, LA Times  Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award and recently, the International Latino Book Award. He is Emeritus Professor from Fresno State’s Chicano and Latin American Studies program and UC-Riverside’s Department of Creative Writing. In the last decade he has served as a Chancellor of the Board of the Academy of American Poets, California’s Poet Laureate, and the Poet Laureate of the United States. Recent book is Every Day We Get More Illegal.


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