A Central Valley native who is now U.S. Poet-Laureate will speak February 23 at Fresno Pacific University.

Juan Felipe Herrea will give a presentation titled “From Son of Migrant Farm Workers to Poet Laureate of the United States” at 7:00 p.m. in the Seminary Chapel in North Hall on the FPU main campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno. A question-and-answer session, reception and book-signing will follow. The event is free and sponsored by the FPU Council of Senior Professionals.

Born in Fowler in 1948, Herrea was the only child of migrant farm workers. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA and a Master of Arts from Stanford University, both in social anthropology, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. He has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and from 1990-2004 he was on the faculty of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at California State University, Fresno. In 2004 he took a creative writing faculty position at the University of California-Riverside from which he retired in 2015. He now lives in Fresno. 

Since publishing his first collection of poems, Rebozos of Love, in 1974, Herrera has authored 30 books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children. Among his awards are the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International Latino Book Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards and the PEN USA National Poetry Award. Three of his books will be available for sale after his presentation. 

Herrera served as California's Poet Laureate from 2012-2014, and in June 2015 became the first Latino to earn the nation's highest poetry honor when he was selected to be the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States. In announcing Herrera's appointment, Librarian of Congress James Billington noted: “I see in Herrera's poems the work of an American original…. His poems engage in a serious sense of play—in language and in image—that I feel gives them enduring power.” Former National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia describes Herrera as “the first U.S. laureate whose work has emerged from the new oral traditions that have been transforming American poetry over the past quarter-century. He can write traditional poems for the page, but many of his poems are designed primarily for spoken delivery. His work is performative, and communal.” 

At FPU, Herrera will share his life story, how he became a poet and how the Central Valley has influenced his work as he reads his poetry “with commentary.”

(Photo courtesy The Los Angeles Times. See full article at latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-poet-laureate-herrera-20150610-story.html)



Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations