This week the Library of Congress named Juan Felipe Herrera the U.S. poet laureate for the 2015-16 term. The son of Mexican immigrants, Herrera is the nation’s first Latino in the honor’s nearly 80 year history. The position’s full title is Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and past honorees have led initiatives to increase awareness and appreciation for poetry across the country (“Librarian of Congress Appoints”).
Herrera’s hope for his role is to “take everything I have in me, weave it, merge it with the beauty that is in the Library of Congress, all the resources, the guidance of the staff and departments, and launch it with the heart-shaped dreams of the people” (qtd. in “Librarian of Congress Appoints”). According to the Library of Congress news release, he will begin his duties this fall, kicking things off with a reading of his work on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15th, at the Coolidge Auditorium.
Herrera has been described as “one of the finest, most innovative, and most challenging contemporary Chicano poets” (Flores 137). He has written for children and adults, and is also an actor and musician. Herrera’s work is inspired by his Chicano heritage and he writes with a mixture of Spanish and English. His early work featured a narrative style with pre-Columbian themes and topics prevalent at the time such as nationalism, cultural pride, and racial discrimination. Later, his work focused on the imagery of the urban landscape and modern Chicano experience (Flores 138; Rodriguez). At the beginning of the 21st century, Herrera described his evolving style as “more comedy with a dash of mystic sauce” (qtd. in “Juan Felipe Herrera (1948-)” 88).
You can learn more about Juan Felipe Herrera by exploring the library’s digital resources. A search for “Juan Felipe Herrera” on the library’s home page returns over 1,000 results that include biographical sketches, news items, scholarly articles, reviews, and, of course, examples of the poet’s work. You can even find images of the poet leading a workshop for university students in California. Searching in Artemis Literary Sources (just click “A” in the Alphabetical List of Resources on the library’s home page) for “Herrera, Juan Felipe” returns two biographical sketches and two topic overviews that include Herrera’s work. The Flores article from the Dictionary of Literary Biography available through Artemis includes scanned images of handwritten poem drafts and notes.
If you would like to explore this topic further and need a helping hand, please use any of our Ask a Librarian options to contact a librarian and we will work with you to get you the information you need.
Flores, Lauro H. “Juan Felipe Herrera (27 December 1948-).” Chicano Writers: Second Series. Ed. Francisco A. Lomeli and Carl R. Shirley. Vol. 122. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 137-145. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Web. 11 June 2015. [Click here to access with Clayton State network credentials]
“Juan Felipe Herrera (1948-).” Something About the Author. Ed. Alan Hedblad. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, 2002. 67-71. Something About the Author. Web. 11 June 2015. [Click here to access with Clayton State network credentials]
“Librarian of Congress Appoints Juan Felipe Herrera Poet Laureate.” News from the Library of Congress. Library of Congress, 10 Jun. 2015. Web. 11 Jun. 2015. [Click here to access]
Rodriguez, Andres. “Contemporary Chicano Poetry: The Work Of Michael Sierra, Juan Felipe Herrera And Luis J. Rodriguez.” Bilingual Review 21.3 (1996): 203-218. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 June 2015. [Click here to access with Clayton State network credentials]