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Sept. 27, 2016

Welcoming U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will visit the Michigan State University Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 for RCAH’s Wednesday Night Live series and the Center for Poetry’s Fall Writing Series.

Herrera’s time at RCAH includes a private workshop with RCAH students and a public reading, conversation and book signing beginning in the RCAH Theater, located in Snyder-Phillips Hall.

“We are delighted to welcome U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to open our fall season in the classroom, in our co-curricular activities and in our collaboration with community partners because his work is about the appreciation of multiple histories, traditions and voices,” said Anita Skeen, director of the RCAH Center for Poetry. “He places a high value on the arts, as does RCAH, and the way in which words shape our conscience and our culture, the way all of our acts are political; like Walt Whitman, he hears American singing.”

In 2015 Herrera was appointed the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate and is the first Latino to hold the position. He grew up in California as the son of migrant farmers, which he has noted as a strong influence on his work. From 2012 to 2014, Herrera served as California State Poet Laureate.

Herrera is the author of 30 books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children. “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” was the recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Influenced by Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez and his own immersion into the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Herrera writes passionately about social issues. Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and Indigenous communities and at-risk youth.

“Waking up is the biggest thing,” Herrera said. “I’m a political poet — let us say a human poet, a poet who’s concerned with the plight of people who suffer. If words can be of assistance, then that’s what I’m going to use.”

Herrera has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, University of California at Berkeley, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Program and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2016, he was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement at the 36th L.A. Times Book Prizes.

By: Katie Wittenauer