About Juan Felipe HerreraJuan Felipe Herrera is an American poet, pertormer, writer, visual artist, activist, and teacher of Mexican descent who became the first Latino poet laureate of the United States from 2015 to 2017. He has written more than twenty-four volumes of poetry, prose, theater, children's books and young adult novels and has won numerous awards, including a 2010 Guggenheim, the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Half the World in Light, and two NEA fellowships in Poetry. He is known for his often bilingual and autobiographical poems on immigration, Chicano identity, and life in California. Growing up in the 60's and attending college in the 70's during the Chicano Movement and more experimental writing such as the Beat Poets, writers like Luis Valdez, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg inspired Herrera. The great era of artistic experimentation has also inspired his writing style in which he challenges the borders between styles, forms, schools, and genres. He is considered as one of the first poets to successfully create a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.
As many literary critics, including Stephen Burt, have noted, Herrera's is a literature that has always transgressed borders of all kinds: oral and written, Spanish and English, oneiric and public, lyric and oratorical. Consider that, in the realm of poetry alone, Herrera has not only authored collections in English, in Spanish, and in bilingual volumes, such as Thunderweavers | Tejedoras de Rayos, which the reader has to physically turn over and upside down to read in both languages, but that he has also collaborated With visual artist Artemio Rodriguez on the ekphrastic Loteria Cards and Fortune Poems: A Book of Lives; written novels in verse, such as Crash Boom Love; and assembled collections like Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler, which interweave epistles, journal entries, and lineated "performance poems, including some that switch languages and registers of language within the line.
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For Herrera, rather than the tools of Master-meanings: Words are the most intimate thing there is. When we speak to each other, our words travel into the center of each other's being. It's life at its peak.