At the risk of sounding pretentious, another great literary spirit has shuffled off this mortal coil. Dave Hernandez, one of the most famous, distinguished, and justifiably acclaimed poets / spoken word artists in Chicago, passed away on February 25, 2013. The Puerto Rican born poet died unexpectedly at the age of 66 of a heart attack. He actually seemed fairly healthy at his last birthday party, which was an exciting Chicago Cultural event that took place at the Blue Line studios. He is survived by his talented wife, Bata as well as his daughter, Matea and his step son, Jeff.
I had the pleasure of featuring Dave and several of his family members (Batya and Matea) at readings that I hosted at different venues over the years including Chela Joe’s Café and Mercury Café. He was always dependable, witty, pround, and he always did a marvelous job as a feature.
Dave had a wonderful eye for urban detail and he frequently wrote poems about street life in Chicago. He helped found the Latino Arts Movement in the ‘70s, and he received the first Gwendolyn Brooks Outstanding Poet of Illinois Award. He also was chosen to read at the funeral and inauguration for Harold Washington.Dave was also a mentor to countless young poets and he taught writing workshops all over the city.
He also frequently performed with musical accompaniment from the band, Street Sounds. They even performed at Taste of Chicago, the Jazz Festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and for an Amnesty International event.
There was supposed to be a memorial show involving street sounds, but so far no info has been posted. Those who wish to donate to his family should look for the appropriate link on the Dave Hernandez and Street Sounds facebook page.
Here’s a link to a fine performance from Dave that took place at the late, lamented Hot House (I also loved the Lovechaos events that took place there.) that originally aired on Chicago Tonight. http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/02/26/remembering-david-hernandez.
The poem he performs alludes to gentrification which was a common team in much of the Latino art I recently saw at the Voces de Mujeres, an exhibit I saw in Pilsen, Chicago at the Carlos@Dominquez Fine Arts Center at 1538 W. Cullerton Street.The more things change, the more they stay the same,
Almost none of the memorials or obits usually succeed in capturing the essence of a person or artist but I think the one that came closest was the one written by his friend and fellow writer Achy Obejas.
• Of course one of the best ways to celebrate a poet’s life is to experience his or her poetry. Here is a link to some audio selections of some of Hernandez’s poems. I would start with the nostalgic, “Armitage Street,” the poignant “Florencia” or the amusing “Why I Want to Be a Real Poet “which cleverly sends up many poetic clichés.