Earlier this week, the Library of Congress named Juan Felipe Herrera the new U.S. Poet Laureate. “The times now seem to be evolving with voices of color,” Herrera said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. He will be the first Mexican-American Laureate in U.S. history.
A graduate of University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Herrera grew up helping his family as a campesino before also studying at UCLA and Stanford. Critical praise for his work is vast, as is his list of accolades, which includes the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. Mexican-American essayist Illa Stavans called Herrera the “one constant over the past three decades in Chicano literature.”
While writing primarily about social issues, Herrera is known for crossing borders both in the literary and cultural sense. His poetry is not exclusively verse, and is often a blend of English and Spanish. Though he employs various hybrid poetic forms in books like Half of the World in Light, Herrera has also published short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. He is currently serves as the Tomas Rivera Endowed Chair at UC Riverside and living with his partner and their five children in Redlands, California.