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Daniel Galvez. Title unknown. From the New Dimensions in Realism exhi­ bition (1984) at Galería de la Raza. Courtesy of the Galería de la Raza, San Francisco, CA. U n d e r t h e N e o n W o rm : I d e o l o g i c a l C o n s c i o u s n e s s a n d C o d e S w i t c h i n g in J u a n F e l i p e H e r r e r a ’s B o r d e r -C r o s s e r w it h a La m b o r g h in i D r e a m J o h n W e g n e r Mystery evades me. Shadows crumble. Without attention, i locate the love void & yet, i know all is well. My blood rocks to a bolero out of rhythm, a firefly’sbolero that is, the one in the dog eye. Hear me warm up to the multi-night. Scribble poems & shout rebuke for the sake of scarred angels —Juan Felipe Herrera, “punk half panther” Juan Felipe Herrera’s poetry treats language as a historicized and contextualized object that connects humans and re-shapes both individual and cultural identity. In particular, Herrera’s willingness to code switch between English, Spanish, and various American and Chicano slang phrases and dialects represents his movement toward creating a third language that crosses borders and unites humanity. To do so, Herrera’s poetry utilizes the cultural shards ofChicano identity as he seeks to both explain the liminality of ethnicity and show a way out of that space via the polyglot experience of Chicano America.1 The linguistic hybrid­ ization within his work switches languages and codes, challenging the authoritarian discourse of American art and culture. The characters in Herrera’s Border-Grosser with a Lamborghini Dream exist in between the official language of the marketplace and the more familiar language of home, between citizenship and alienation, and between cultural identi­ ties. For Herrera, this complexity is not a site of conflict, but a site of contemporary linguistic reality. While Herrera has code switched throughout his career, and his recent children’s books clearly show his desire to privilege the inter­ lingual nature of American language, it is his 1999 collection BorderCrosser with a Lamborghini Dream (BCWALD) that provides the most W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e 4 1 .4 (W in t e r 2 0 0 7 ) : 3 7 3 - 9 1 . 3 7 4 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e W i n t e r 2 0 0 7 rewarding opportunity to explore his linguistic manipulation of the American artscape.2 The collection, divided into five cantos, offers readers a Whitmanesque, Ginsbergian view of Americana whose voice brings together the Bakhtinian dialogic to explore Chicano identity in the contemporary landscape.3 Herrera’s code switching allows his audi­ ence to see the multiple border crossings in his collection, and it allows him “a broader set of stylistic choices” with which he “manipulates” his audience (Flores 144)-4 This manipulation is directly related to the linguistic dialogic created by Herrera’s code switching. Poetry that code switches either between languages or between language types (slang or dialect) assumes an author-audience relationship and presumes a dia­ logue between these two groups.5 The border between Mexico and the United States adds a unique linguistic interplay that complicates the idea of code switching even more because the speaker/author recognizes that he has multiple audiences who will interpret the words differently, in addition to an audience who may be able to understand both lan­ guages. This third group, theoretically, is participating in the construc­ tion of a third language that melds the previous two. These multiple audiences are part of the polyphonic nature of Chicano poetry, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 373-391
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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