Spotlight on Juan Felipe Herrera, first Latino U.S. poet laureate

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

CSN Library Services would like to invite the students and faculty to explore our selection of Hispanic authors in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is particularly exciting for the world of poetry as it coincides with the appointment of the nation’s first Latino U.S. poet laureate. Juan Felipe Herrera, already the California poet laureate since 2012, has a body of work which spans many genres beyond his impressive body of poetry. His work encompasses children’s books, young adult novels, short stories and more. These works have explored not only his own creative expression but have sought to bring visibility, and representation to, as well as share the experiences of, Mexican-Americans. A man of many talents, he has also worked as an actor, musician and playwright.

The son of migrant workers, Herrera discovered his love of poetry through his mother’s spontaneous recitation of poetry from her own childhood, and the songs she shared with him about the Mexican Revolution. A native of California, Herrera graduated from San Diego High School in 1967 to attend UCLA for his Bachelors in Social Anthropology, and received his Masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford University. He later received an additional Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa.

Herrera’s work in activism includes an anti-bullying project called the i-Promise Joanna/Yo te Prometo Joanna Project. The project invites students to write poetry about the effects of bullying and challenges them to take action to prevent bullying. He was also a member of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

Through his works of performance art, poetry and prose Herrera has won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International Latino Book Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN/ Beyond Margins award. Additionally he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been elected a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets in 2011.

Herrera was selected by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington who stated that his poems “champion voices, traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity.” There is little doubt that with his prestigious and accomplished history Herrera will inspire as the nation’s new poet laureate.

Those interested in Herrera’s work can explore what he has published in the CSN library’s collections, read his online biography, or read other Hispanic authors from our Latino Literature database.