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Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate: A Resource Guide

About Juan Felipe Herrera at the Library of Congress

Juan Felipe Herrera served as the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress from 2015-2017, having officially begun his term on September 18th, 2015. The links below provide more information about Herrera's activities at the Library, including webcasts, blog posts, and related news releases.

On June 10, 2015, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Juan Felipe Herrera as the 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

Herrera participated in the 2015 National Book Festival, which took place on September 5. His inaugural reading as Poet Laureate occurred in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. He spent much of his first term as Laureate traveling across the country conducting reading, lectures, and workshops with students and members of the general public. In all, Herrera made some 130 official appearances during his two terms as Laureate.

Herrera's national project during his first term as Poet Laureate was "La Casa de Colores" ("the House of Colors"). This project included two major features. First, Americans were invited to contribute a verse to an "epic poem" about the American experience. The resulting poem, titled "La Familia" ("The Family"), unfolded monthly, with a new theme each month about an aspect of American life, values, or culture. "El Jardín" ("The Garden"), the second major component of his project, included videos of Herrera's interaction with specific items and collections throughout the Library, along with his written responses to each interaction and curator comments.

Herrera was appointed to a second term as Poet Laureate by acting Librarian of Congress David Mao at the beginning of Herrera's end-of the-term lecture on April 13, 2016. On making a second-term appointment, Mao said;

In his first term as Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera traveled the country championing poetry; he also launched an ambitious project on the Library’s website. We look forward to seeing what Herrera will accomplish in his second term, and we know he will continue to inspire and educate with his warmth, enthusiasm, and creative genius.

Herrera’s second term featured three major projects:

  • During the 2016-2017 school year, second and third grade students from across the nation were invited to contribute to "The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon," an illustrated narrative poem featured on the Library of Congress's website. The project launched in October 2016 with an introductory chapter and prompt written by Herrera and illustrated by artist Juana Medina. School librarians, teachers, and after-school program directors worked with students to submit responses. The narrative poem comprises six chapters, guided by input from librarians and students. Herrera and Medina posted the final chapter online June 8, 2017.
  • Continuing his work with students, Herrera and the Library of Congress collaborated throughout the 2016-2017 school year with the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on a program titled "Wordstreet Champions and Brave Builders of the Dream." Herrera worked with approximately 40 high school English teachers from CPS to develop new exercises and strategies for teaching poetry to freshmen. At the program’s conclusion, CPS (the country’s third most populous school district) measured impact on participating teachers and their students. Participating teachers and schools included:
    • Jane Angle, Von Steuben High School
    • Laura Bailey, Schurz High School
    • Leah Bravo Johnson, Harlan Community Academy High School
    • Kwame Burton, Consuella B. York Alternative High School
    • Cassandra Christensen, Amundsen High School
    • Matt D'Agostino, Back of the Yards College Prep
    • Marie Davis, Hyde Park Academy High School
    • Amy Ellifritz, Marine Leadership Academy
    • Rhonda Gholston, Hyde Park Academy High School
    • Melissa Hughes, Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School
    • Wendy Hush, Eric Solorio Academy High School
    • Sheldon Krieger, George Westinghouse College Prep
    • LaTanya Lambert, Austin College and Career Academy High School
    • Alex Laser, Nicholas Senn High School
    • Kimberly Lawrence, Gage Park High School
    • Grace Luk, George Washington High School
    • Lynette Mendoza, Marine Leadership Academy
    • Marinda O'Neal, Al Raby High School
    • Allison Ruggles, Morgan Park High School
    • Jill Simon, Lindblom Math and Science Academy
    • Jake Spangler, Christian Fenger Academy High School
    • Stavroula Sparagis, Kenwood Academy
    • Beth Starr, Curie Metropolitan High School
    • Jolanta Szefer, Steinmetz College Prep High School
    • Brian Telles, Lane Tech College Prep
    • Leticia Trejo, Farragut Career Academy
    • Carrie Williams, Manley Career Academy
    • Danielle Williams, Simeon Career Academy
  • Herrera’s third initiative during his second term was the creation of a West Coast office, the "Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio External." Soft launched in fall 2016, the studio was officially dedicated and opened External on May 11, 2017. The studio is a performance/classroom space (Room 1110) in the Henry Madden Library at California State University in Fresno, where Herrera once taught and now lives. Herrera uses the space to develop small-scale, dynamic programs and classes for his local community, mixing poetry with visual arts, song, and movement. Teachers, writers, artists, and community members are welcome to join Herrera in his continuous experiment with language.

Juan Felipe Herrera has been featured on both the Poetry and Literature Center's blog, From the Catbird Seat, and on the Library's main blog. Those blog posts are linked below:

The Library of Congress features a number of recordings of Juan Felipe Herrera reading his poetry and discussing materials in the Library's collections with Library curators and librarians. These are listed below.

El Jardín Webcast Series (Part of La Casa de Colores)

Other Webcasts

Other Recordings