féi hernandez – Con Y Del Corazón
A Conversation with Hood Criatura’s féi hernandez
“There is too much cumbia / too much Selena in my walk / too much Frank Ocean in my lovin’ / too much storm in our summer kiss.”
féi hernandez writes poetry con y del corazón. Their new collection, Hood Criatura (Sundress 2020), tells emotionally intimate stories crafted in imagistic Spanglish. Pulitzer Prize finalist Patricia Smith describes hernandez as the “american dream in the second before it blooms into nightmare,” and their collection moves according to polyphonic rhythms both implicit and explicit: “There is too much cumbia,/too much Selena in my walk/Too much Frank Ocean in my lovin’,/too much storm in our summer kiss.” hernandez chronicles Black and brown life in México and the United States, singing kawaii corridos for and about those they love. hernandez spoke with Tasteful Rude about Hood Criatura, high school, spoken word, mom energy and Inglewood. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
MYRIAM GURBA: Do you have an origin story as a poet?
FÉI HERNANDEZ: My senior year of high school, a teacher took me to a poetry lounge. I sat on the stage, listening to poets of color, and I was like, “I can do that. I need to do that.” I had come out as undocumented and was navigating anxiety, angst, anger and frustration. I needed an outlet. Prose is super long-winded for me. I realized nobody’s going to sit here and read [my prose]. I don’t even want read it. With poetry, there’s an instant gratification, instant response.
MG: What happened after high school?
FH: I got a full-ride scholarship and went to college. I got my documentation and ended up at a bougie East Coast school. It was white as fuck and hard to navigate. A couple of friends and I started the first spoken word group on campus.
MG: Did you have poetry mentors?
FH: I attended a VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) workshop and met Patricia Smith. My work pivoted when I met her. I love Natalie Diaz, Danez Smith, Aleysha Wise, Matthew “Cuban” hernandez, and Tommy Pico.
MG: Did you set out to write Spanglish poems or is Spanglish a reflection of your interiority?
FH: For me, writing is like putting a puzzle together. I think about whom I want to know what and so my poetry is about access. The Spanglish hides. It emphasizes the exclusivity of words. My first language is Spanish, a colonizer language like English. There are also Tarahumara and Pima words in my work. I know where my people come from and our displacement finds its way into my work. I like playing with language a lot and that’s about obscurity for me. I harbored linguistic insecurity for so long and I became strict with how I use language poetically. I will know that I have to write in English. The Spanish is super intentional. I don’t italicize it because fuck that. I’m very controlling and precise with words. I use English to lure people in and then bring them to a liminal space.
MG: I love that you create poetry traps. Your work begs existential questions, “What is a Mexican?” being one of them.
FH: I have to emphasize to people that Mexican is a nationality and if we have to break it down, Inglewood is my country. Inglewood is the place that gave me life and taught me to be conscientious of so many different things. It’s interesting to think about migration patterns. I’m from Chihuahua and my mom just barely made it to California. Sometimes I ask myself, how are people getting up to New York?
MG: Do people challenge your Mexican-ness?
FH: Yeah. When I was on the East coast, this woman was like, “What are you?” I was about to respond but she interrupted to say, “You look Honduran! You look like a Honduran person I met!” I was like, “I’ve never met a Honduran person in my life.” When I’ve taught, some of my student have said that they thought I was white. Others said they knew I was Mexican. Some asked, “Why do you keep saying, y’all?” I was like, “It’s a gender-neutral way of speaking.”
MG: You address the subject of abuelitas in your poetry and in my imagination, there’s a strong distinction between abuelas and abuelitas. If she’s beloved, she’s an abuelita. If she’s not, she’s an abuela. As you age, would you prefer to emit abuela, abuelita, or tía vibes?
FH: So a person who does healing work was like, “féi, I had a dream about you!” And then he told me about what happened in the dream and at the end of the conversation he was like, “You’re an elder. People come to you for help and support.” I was like, “Bro, I’m 27.”
I’m a very diligent and focused person. I have motherly instincts, transness has everything to do with my mothering tendencies, having a womb, and obviously I’m not old, but I act like everybody’s mom. I got that mom energy though I’m trying to be the sexy tía, the kind who gets lots of plastic surgery, runs her own business, and can have any man.
To purchase Hood Criatura, click here.
Ángel de la Guardia
mighty tall like a palm tree / he looks down / at the ant of me / fisheye / lens / follows me / traces my drunk cruiser bike zigzagging / round the new speed bumps /
my savior / my God / stands above me with feet in cement / my only Angel de la Guardia / brown body with black fingers / holding every piece of heaven / his fingers adorned with black silver-black birds /
his fingers / nets / in case I fall into Inglewood from the sky / again / a lost star / on display while a spaceship / peruses in front of Randy’s on wheels / my God /
always holds something / the memory of an alley fight / a mopuse in the grip of a silver-black-bird / drive-bys / a homie smacking / his baby momma / there is no corner my angel don’t / post up at /
chin up / casts a skinny shadow / over the back-homes we lived in / over the empty lots with fickle weeds / peeking their head through netted fences /
out of hiding / out of the closet / my God / hides me / my obese / tired body / with its skinny shadow / I gasp for breath / looking / side-to-side / on the hottest day in Inglewood / my Angel
spreads its wings for me / while I repair / the loose chain of me on a corner / my hands bloodied with grease / the bare toothed sidewalks laugh at me / the alley fights roar / I hope Eddy is okay /
Momo didn’t get shot? / thank
God / I’ll call you later / and when the heat recedes and the ocean mist flocks the bruised streets / my Angel / vibrates with the heat of phone calls / shooting through its arms /
mothers call their children /
my God holds witness that she called / even though she knew que / Dios me cuida / ba / telepathized my Angel that followed me / block to block / knowing / he watched the ant / of me / memorizing the streets /
potholes / the last places people were seen / alive / pointing at all my friend’s homes / lit in the evening glow / eating dinner as a family / I memorized the streets to make sure I knew where I came from /
my Angel / my mom / taught me how to love / my sky / sliced / and be grateful / for our slice / be full / with the piece of life we have /
féi hernandez (they/them) was born in Chihuahua, México and raised in Inglewood, CA.
They are a trans non-binary visual artist, writer, and healer.
féi is the author of Hood Criatura, published by Sundress Publications, 2020. Their writing has been featured in Poetry, Oxford Review of Books, Frontier, NPR’s Code Switch, Immigrant Report, Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity (Columbia University Press, 2019), Hayden’s Ferry Review Issue 64, BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT, and PANK Magazine.
They were a femmetor for the 2019-2020 Seeds of Liberación (SOL) leadership development program for young transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people in Los Angeles.
féi is a certified Reiki and Akashic Records practitioner who utilizes a decolonial approach to ancestral energetic healing.
They collect Pokémon plushies.
féi is the President of Gender Justice Los Angeles and is a Co-Founder of the ING Fellowship.