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David Hernandez

May 1, 1946 – February 25, 2013

Inducted in 2014

Poetry

Despertando/Waking Up (1971)

Collected Words for a Dusty Shelf (1973)

Satin City Lullaby (1987)

Rooftop Piper (1991)

Elvis Is Dead but at Least He Isn't Gaining Any Weight (1995)

This city is a neon lady that nurtures quiet or introspective, loud and brassy poets.

Hailed as the unofficial poet laureate of Chicago, David Hernandez immigrated with his family from Cidra, Puerto Rican at the age of nine, and soon after adopted the art form he would pursue his entire life. He said that his decision to become a poet happened at Robert Morris School, Room 208, when his teacher Miss Greenspan explained that artistic license gave poets liberties with grammar. 

Hernandez published Despertando/Waking Up, in 1971, at which point he’d already been performing his poetry for nearly a decade—on street corners and playgrounds as he made rounds fulfilling his job as community activist. That same year, Hernandez founded Street Sounds, a collection of musicians and poets taking the stage at festivals and other venues.

Hernandez turned out a series of poetry collections thereafter—Collected Words for a Dusty Shelf (1973), Satin City Lullaby (1987), Rooftop Piper (1991), Elvis Is Dead but at Least He Isn't Gaining Any Weight (1995). He was also a regular presence in anthologies.

But reading Hernandez’s poetry was only half an experience. The charisma, passion and humor he brought to his live performances, both with and without Street Sounds, elevated the quality of his work. He performed at Harold Washington's mayoral inauguration in 1987, at Washington's funeral, and at Chicago's sesquicentennial.

Over the span of nearly five decades, Hernandez taught poetry workshops at the Uptown Community Clinic, in the Chicago Public Schools, and through community arts programs, such as Gallery Humboldt Park.

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