Jerry Brown names son of migrant workers as California poet laureate


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Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed Juan Felipe Herrera, the son of Mexican migrant workers and a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, as California’s poet laureate.


Herrera, 63, has written 28 books and won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his poetry in 2009. He also won a PEN Beyond Margins award in 2009, a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry in 2010 and was elected to the Board of Chancellors for the Academy of American Poets last year.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from UCLA, a master’s in social anthropology from Stanford and a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa.

Herrera chaired the department of Chicano and Latin American Studies at Cal State Fresno from 1990 to 2004, according to the governor’s statement.

In his announcement, Brown quoted from the University of Arizona Press’ summation of Herrera’s work: “For nearly four decades Juan Felipe Herrera has documented his experience as a Chicano in the United States and Latin America through stunning, memorable poetry that is both personal and universal in its impact, themes, and approach. Often political, never fainthearted, his career has been marked by tremendous virtuosity and a unique sensibility for uncovering the unknown and the unexpected.”

The position requires confirmation by the state Senate and carries a stipend.

The administration released a video of Herrera speaking about the importance of libraries at a Riverisde County library in 2010. It is embedded below.

[Corrected at 10:02 am Thursday: A previous version of the post incorrectly stated that the Herrera speech was at a library in Riverside.]



Read one of Herrera’s poems

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