A few months back, we featured California’s state poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, as one of our Pioneers in Poetry. Now, it seems that Herrera will be honored on a national level, as he was recently named as the next U.S. poet laureate. Read on to find out more about Herrera, his work, and the unique nature of this annoucement.
U.S. Poet Herrera is the Country’s First Latino Laureate
The Library of Congress announced that Juan Felipe Herrera, a 66-year old poet of Chicano descent, will be the official representative of poetry in our country. Herrera succeeds current U.S. poet laureate, Charles Wright.
A Poet Laureate With a Diverse Background
Herrera will be the first Latino poet laureate the U.S. has ever had; his background is a diverse one, his family’s story similar to many other immigrant stories. Herrera’s family were migrant farm workers originally hailing from Mexico, and he grew up in Southern California. Herrera then went on to attend UCLA, Stanford University, and the world-renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As a working poet, Herrera has taught his craft in a wide range of places, from traditional settings such as colleges and universities to slightly more unorthodox locales, including prisons and migrant education offices.
Herrera’s Awards and Acclaim
Herrera cited his mother as one of his primary poetic influences, saying in an NPR interview that she would recite poetry she loved as a child, and her love of poetry passed down to her son. This love has translated into over two dozen published books over the course of Herrera’s career and numerous poetry awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN USA Award.
The Position of Poet Laureate Throughout U.S. History
Since the first poet laureate of the country was named in 1937 (under the original title of “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress”), the position has been granted to many big names in the poetry world. Poets from many different walks of life have been granted the title, and each has put forth his or her own efforts to promote an appreciation and understanding of poetry throughout the country during his or her tenure. The U.S. poet laureate, in addition to creating programs to promote poetry, is granted a stipend intended to faciliate their work during their time as poet laureate.