Poetry Perfection: Juan Felipe Herrera Appointed to Second Term as U.S. Poet Laureate

Retired UCR professor looks forward to continuing his “inspiration tsunami”

Juan felipe herrera

Poetry professor emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera has been named to a second term as U.S. poet laureate.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, professor of poetry emeritus at the University of California, Riverside, has been appointed to a second term as the nation’s top poet, an honor he said will enable him to continue sharing the “inspiration tsunami” he experienced in the last year.

Herrera, who retired from UC Riverside in 2015, is one of several multiyear laureates, a group that includes UCR alumnus Billy Collins (2001-2003). His second term begins Sept. 1.

“In his first term as laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera traveled the country championing poetry; he also launched an ambitious project on the library’s website,” Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao said in announcing the appointment at Herrera’s end-of the-term lecture at the Library of Congress on April 13. “We look forward to seeing what Herrera will accomplish in his second term, and we know he will continue to inspire and educate with his warmth, enthusiasm, and creative genius.”

Herrera served as California poet laureate from 2012 to 2015. He is the first Hispanic to serve as poet laureate for both the state and the nation.

“Deep gratitude and great joy, and many thank-you’s to the Library (of Congress),” he said in response to his reappointment. “I look forward to continuing my first year’s momentum and sharing the inspiration tsunami given to me in every community that I visit throughout the U.S.A. as laureate.”

The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera is known for chronicling the bittersweet lives, travails and contributions of Mexican Americans. He joined the UCR faculty in 2005 and was the Tomás Rivera Chair in the Department of Creative Writing until Gov. Jerry Brown named him the state’s poet laureate in 2012.

Library of Congress officials said that Herrera’s first term was noteworthy for his online project, “La Casa de Colores,” which is comprised of two initiatives: “La Familia,” a submission-based epic poem asking for the participation of the general public, and “El Jardín,” a series chronicling his experiences exploring and interacting with the library’s resources and collections.

Herrera has published 30 books of poetry, young-adult novels and children’s books, among them “Portraits of Hispanic Americans” (2014), a picture book showcasing inspiring Hispanic- and Latino-Americans, and “Notes on the Assemblage” (2015), a volume of poems. “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (University of Arizona, 2008)  received the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, the International Latino Award in poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

He has been elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, and has received the Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, and the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship. Other honors include the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction and the Focal Award.

Herrera was born in Fowler, California, in 1948. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology from UCLA. A master’s degree in social anthropology from Stanford University, and master of fine arts from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He is a visiting professor in the Department of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington-Seattle.

The Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as poet laureate consultant in poetry. The poet laureate suggests authors to read in the Library’s literary series and plans other special events during the literary season. For more information, visit loc.gov/poetry/.

The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, holds more than 162 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its website.

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