Juan Felipe Herrera will become the nation’s next poet laureate this September. He is the first Latino poet to fill the post since it was created in 1937. Herrera was named California’s poet laureate in 2012 and served in that position through 2014.
As NPR reports, he is a child of California, hardly leaving the state in 66 years, “born to a family of migrant farm workers, he bounced from tent to trailer for much of his youth in Southern California, eventually going on to study at UCLA and Stanford. Years later, he stepped out of the state to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, before — you guessed it — returning home to California.”
The Poetry Foundation, which has a profile of Herrera as well as three sample poems, says that he has been influenced by Allen Ginsberg and that his “poetry brims with simultaneity and exuberance.” The New York Times says his poetry “fuses wide-ranging experimentalism with reflections on Mexican-American identity.” They offer two additional selections of poems.
Herrera has written dozens of books including poetry, short stories, and works for children and young adults. His most recent book is Senegal Taxi (University of Arizona Press; 2013). He is perhaps best known for 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (City Lights; 2007) and Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press; 2008).
The following video Herrera reads from the latter at at the 2009 PEN Beyond Margins Celebration.