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A Poet Laureate's Life: Juan Felipe Herrera

We sit down with Juan Felipe Herrera, the newly minted – and first Latino – U.S. poet laureate.

This handout photo provided by the University of California-Riverside shows Juan Felipe Herrera. Herrera, the son of migrant farm workers in California, will be the next U.S. poet in chief. The Library of Congress announced Wednesday the appointment of Herrera as the nation's 21st poet laureate for 2015 through 2016, beginning in September. (AP)

This handout photo provided by the University of California-Riverside shows Juan Felipe Herrera. Herrera, the son of migrant farm workers in California, will be the next U.S. poet in chief. The Library of Congress announced Wednesday the appointment of Herrera as the nation’s 21st poet laureate for 2015 through 2016, beginning in September. (AP)

Juan Felipe Herrera grew up the son of Mexican immigrant farm workers, toiling up and down California. Spanish was his first language. When he went to school with all that English around, he says, his tongue felt like a stone in his mouth. This month, Juan Felipe Herrera was named Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Latino Poet Laureate. His poetry is exuberant, bold. A little Allen Ginsberg. A little Walt Whitman. A whole lot of Spanish around.  And an early call – “Let us gather in a flourishing way… in the garden of our struggle and joy.” This hour On Point: newly-named Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Juan Felipe Herrera, poet, writer and activist. 2015 US Poet Laureate. Former California poet laureate. Author of many poetry collections, including “Senegal Taxi,” “Half of The World In Light” and “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border.” (@cilantroman)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Juan Felipe Herrera new U.S. poet laureate: ‘Shout it from the roof tops’ — “Herrera’s parents, both migrant farm workers, came to California from Mexico in the early part of the 20th century. He traveled up and down the state as a child and attended UCLA with the help of the Educational Opportunity Program for disadvantaged students. Although he got a master’s degree at Stanford in the 1970s in social anthropology, what he really wanted to do was write. In 1988 he went to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop for a master of fine arts in poetry.”

Washington Post: Juan Felipe Herrera becomes first Mexican American U.S. poet laureate — “As a child, Juan Felipe Herrera learned to love poetry by singing about the Mexican Revolution with his mother, a migrant farmworker in California. Inspired by her spirit, he has spent his life crossing borders, erasing boundaries and expanding the American chorus. On Wednesday, June 10, Herrera became the first Hispanic American to serve as poet laureate of the United States.”

Guardian US: US poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera: ‘Poetry is one of the most beautiful ways of participating’ — “Few people in America would speak of poetry as a realm of endless possibility in the way Herrera does, not anymore. For many people, poetry is still stereotyped as the inaccessible, ivory-tower stuff studied by academics and force-fed on high-school students or to be found in Father’s Day cards. Even the size of the stipend Herrera will collect as poet laureate – $35,000 – indicates a certain amount of public disinterest in this particular art.”

Read A Selection Of Poems By Juan Felipe Herrera

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