The son of migrant farmworkers, who fled the 1910 Mexican Revolution, has been named the first Latino Poet Laureate of the U.S.

As he announced the selection of Juan Felipe Herrera, the Librarian of Congress, James Billington, compared Herrera’s poems to Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

“The honor is bigger than me,” Herrera said in a statement. “It is a miracle of many of us coming together.”

Herrera has published 14 poetry collections and seven other books including short stories, novels, and children’s works – most recently, Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes (2014), recommended for grades 4-8. His poems frequently weave English and Spanish words throughout.Tree-book-tree-Screengrab (1)

Children’s Book Grows Into a Tree When You Plant It


“I see how (the poems) champion voices, traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity,” Billington said.

The Library of Congress selects the Poet Laureate, based solely on poetic merit, to serve a one year term. Laureates have few responsibilities with the title, but have held readings and started programs to grow audiences for poetry in the U.S.

Herrera says he wants to use the resources of the Library of Congress to develop “everything I have in me…with the heart-shaped dreams of the people.”

Previously appointed California’s poet laureate in 2012, the author retired in March from the University of California Riverside where he taught creative writing for ten years.

In an excerpt from Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings, Herrera describes his art in a few lines:

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this. . . 

(READ more, w/ photos, at the Los Angeles TimesPhoto by slowking, GNU license

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