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Central California Life Magazine

Fresno gets two new poet laureates

Sep 14, 2015 03:17AM ● By Kevin

Juan Felipe Herrera

Central California resident Juan Felipe Herrera has been named the nation’s 21st poet laureate. He is the first Latino and second former Fresno State professor the Library of Congress has selected for this honor. (The late Philip Levine was given this distinction in 2012.)

Herrera, 66, grew up Fowler. His experiences as the son of migrant farmworkers and college student during the Chicano civil rights movement heavily influenced his writings and other creative works, which include more than a dozen published works of poetry, plays and books for children and young adults. 

Herrera was chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies department at Fresno State from 1990 to 2004 and left to become the endowed chair of creative writing at UC Riverside. He retired from academia in March. 

He recently concluded a two-year appointment as California’s poet laureate.

Lee Herrick.
Photo by Anh Dao Kolbe

Lee Herrick was named Fresno’s new poet laureate in April. The Fresno City College English instructor has since performed at local events like ArtHop, reading some of his latest work.

“I was thrilled and very humbled and surprised but very excited to get to work and immerse myself even more with the poetry,” Herrick said of being awarded the new title. “One of the things I want to do is highlight poets and poetry here in the city, whether that’s in colleges, schools, community centers or other institutions. I want to get poetry woven into the city’s fabric.”

Herrick is the author of two books. Several of his poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies.