Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Juan Felipe Herrera New US Poet Laureate

Juan Felipe Herrera, the new
US Poet Laureate (A Plus Journalism)
Juan Felipe Herrera, who has served these last two years as the Poet Laureate of California, was named the new Poet Laureate of the United States (Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress) early this morning by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. He becomes the first Latino and the first Chicano to serve in this post. A retired professor, longtime advocate for bringing poetry in a wide array of spaces and, since 2011, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Herrera is the author of over two dozen books, including collections of poetry and works for children. In 2011, for National Poetry Month, and again in 2012, when he was named California Poet Laureate, I wrote short blog entries and featured poems by Herrera. In 2011, I said
One of the things I particularly like about his work is its versatility, of subject matter, voice, and form. While he draws frequently from his life, he will also set aloft a conceit like the one below, flavored by and steeped in his experiences yet resonant far beyond his own biography.

Like May Swenson, he can do a lot of different things well, and has been known to move words in very interesting ways around the page. Herrera finally received some major props in 2008 when he won the National Book Critics Circle Award, becoming the first Latino poet to receive it.
In the latter post, I wrote
his work covers a broad range of styles and forms, sometimes melding Spanish and English, though it is often colloquial in tone, frequently tinged with humor, and always attentive to the resonances of everyday life and people, sometimes effortlessly bringing profound cultural and spiritual dimensions to the fore. It is in this regard quintessentially American, and nourishes a rich tradition of such poetry going back centuries.
I'm excited to see the breadth and richness of American poetries reflected in this new choice and look forward to seeing him serve as Poet Laureate. I envision him attracting a wide array of people to the worlds of poetry, and hope that this post brings far more readers to his playful, profound work.

Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera!


Here is another poem by Juan Felipe Herrera, shared from the Academy of American Poets' website, from Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems. It's brief, and manages to be both comical and serious, with touches of surrealism and the metaphysical, resonating like that sixth guitar string.

Five Directions to My House

1. Go back to the grain yellow hills where the broken speak of elegance
2. Walk up to the canvas door, the short bed stretched against the clouds
3. Beneath the earth, an ant writes with the grace of a governor
4. Blow, blow Red Tail Hawk, your hidden sleeve—your desert secrets
5. You are there, almost, without a name, without a body, go now
6. I said five, said five like a guitar says six.

From Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008.

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