Juan Felipe Herrera appointed California poet laureate
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Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed California poet laureate by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday. After the required confirmation by the California Senate, Herrera will be the first Hispanic writer to serve in the post.
Herrera currently holds the Tomas Rivera Endowed Chair in the department of creative writing at UC Riverside. In addition to works of poetry, his 23 books include prose, short fiction, young adult novels and books for children. His accolades include a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, National Endowment for the Arts writers’ fellowships, California Arts Council grants, the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship, the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship.
His 2008 collection ‘Half of the World in Light’ was a winner of that year’s National Book Critics Circle award in poetry. ‘Herrera’s work is informed by his participation in the cultural and historical Chicano Movement of the 1960s, by a strong influence from Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, and by an awareness of Mexico’s intimate and conflicted relationship with the U.S.,’ wrote book critics circle board member Rigoberto Gonzales. ‘Indeed, Herrera inhabits, critiques and re-imagines the borderlands between Spanish and English, barrio-speak and academic philology, Mesoamerican myth and popular culture, to give readers a unique and original lens through which to view contemporary society in the Americas.’
Herrera, 63, is the son of migrant workers from Mexico. He attended UCLA as an undergrad, earned a master’s degree in social anthropology from Stanford and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa’s creative writing program. He was elected to the board of chancellors for the Academy of American Poets in 2011.
-- Carolyn Kellogg