Juan Felipe Herrera, the son of migrant farm workers and the author of 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, was named the U.S. poet laureate on Wednesday, the first Hispanic appointed to the position.
The Library of Congress, which announced the appointment on Wednesday, said Herrera, 68, will become the 21st U.S. poet laureate when he takes up the position in the fall. He succeeds Charles Wright.
“I see in Herrera’s poems the work of an American original, work that takes the sublimity and largesse of ‘Leaves of Grass’ and expands upon it,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement.
“His poems engage in a serious sense of play, in language and in image, that I feel gives them enduring power,” he added.
Born in Fowler, California, Herrera lived in tents and trailers as a child as his family moved around the state. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, he has also written novels for young adults, collections for children and the picture book “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes.”
His most recent of book of poems is “Senegal Taxi,” published in 2013.
“This is a mega-honor for me, for my family and my parents who came up north before and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the honor is bigger than me,” he said.
Herrera is also the author of more than a dozen poetry collections and received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award.
He is the recipient of two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, several PEN prizes and had fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Currently a visiting profession at the University of Washington, Seattle, he also served as the Poet Laureate of California from 2012-2015.
The poet laureate is selected for a one-year term by the Librarian of Congress.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney in New York Editing by W Simon)