On June 10 the Librarian of the US Congress named Juan Felipe Herrera as the US Poet Laureate for 2015-16. Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s current poet laureate, makes history as the country’s first Latino to hold this honor. The 66-year-old Herrera was born to Mexican migrant workers, lived in tents and trailers with his family in farming communities, and knew no English when he entered first grade. After earning a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles, an MA from Stanford in social anthropology, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he became a professor. Herrera is now retired from the University of California at Riverside.
Herrera is a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience; his creative talents can be found in video, photography, theater, poetry, prose, and performance. Among his poetry collections are Senegal Taxi (2013), Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (2007), and Crashboomlove (1999, a novel in verse). Publications for young adults include Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes (2014), co-authored with Raul Colon.
The US Poet Laureate receives a stipend of $35,000.