Juan Felipe Herrera Named U.S. Poet Laureate
Juan Felipe Herrera has been named the 21st U.S. poet laureate by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who said his poems "champion voices, traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity." Herrera, who is the first Mexican American hold the position, will begin his year-long tenure in September when he participates in the National Book Festival and reads from his work at the Library of Congress, the Washington Post reported. He will succeed Charles Wright.
|Juan Felipe Herrera|
"I'm looking forward to a whole new world--and a new me," he said. "The times now seem to be evolving with voices of color. All voices are important, and yet it seems that people of color have a lot to say, particularly if you look through the poetry of young people--a lot of questions and a lot of concerns about immigration and security issues, you name it, big questions. All this is swirling in the air."
Herrera has published several collections of poetry, including Half of the World in Light, which won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is Senegal Taxi. The Post noted that he "has also worked as an actor, playwright and musician, and he has published award-winning fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults." Herrera recently finished a two-year term as the poet laureate of California and teaches at the University of Washington.
Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, said Herrera "is someone who believes that poetry can make a difference in people's lives and communities. He will bring an enthusiasm and electricity to the role of poet laureate that is sure to spark new and wider interest in the art form among people of all ages."
For his part, Herrera said he is "here to encourage others to speak, to speak out and speak up and write with their voices and their family stories and their sense of humor and their deep concerns and their way of speaking their own languages. I want to encourage people to do that with this amazing medium called poetry.... Waking up is the biggest thing. I'm a political poet--let us say a human poet, a poet that's concerned with the plight of people who suffer. If words can be of assistance, then that's what I'm going to use."