The U.S. Library of Congress appointed Juan Felipe Herrera as the new national poet laureate on Wednesday. Herrera, a 66-year-old Californian, will be the first Hispanic-American to serve in the prestigious position, according to a news release.
"The times now seem to be evolving with voices of color," Herrera told the Washington Post. "All voices are important, and yet it seems that people of color have a lot to say, particularly if you look through the poetry of young people -- a lot of questions and a lot of concerns about immigration and security issues, you name it, big questions. All this is swirling in the air."
Herrera will replace Charles Wright as national poet laureate starting in September and extending through 2016. He'll be "the nation's official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans," encouraging people to read poetry and establishing relevant programs, according to a job description on the Library of Congress website.
â€” Ron Charles (@RonCharles) June 10, 2015
Herrera, born to migrant farm workers from Mexico, writes in Spanish and English. Read three of his most well-known poems below:
Yet the peach tree
& falls with fruit & without
birds eat it the sparrows fight
burns with trash & drug
it also breathes & sprouts
vines & maguey
laws pass laws with scientific walls
detention cells husband
with the son
the wife &
the daughter who
married a citizen
they stay behind broken slashed
un-powdered in the apartment to
deal out the day
& the puzzles
another law then another
the grass is mowed then blown
by a machine sidewalks are empty
clean & the Red Shouldered Hawk
down -- from
an abandoned wooden dome
an empty field
it is all in-between the light
every day this changes a little
yesterday homeless &
w/o papers Alberto
left for Denver a Greyhound bus he said
where they don’t check you
under the silver darkness
with our mind
1. Go back to the grain yellow hills where the broken speak of elegance
2. Walk up to the canvas door, the short bed stretched against the clouds
3. Beneath the earth, an ant writes with the grace of a governor
4. Blow, blow Red Tail Hawk, your hidden sleeve -- your desert secrets
5. You are there, almost, without a name, without a body, go now
6. I said five, said five like a guitar says six.
Ezekiel saw the wheel,
way up in the middle of the air.
TRADITIONAL GOSPEL SONG
Blood on the night soil man en route to the country prison
Blood on the sullen chair, the one that holds you with its pleasure
Blood inside the quartz, the beauty watch, the eye of the guard
Blood on the slope of names & the tattoos hidden
Blood on the Virgin, behind the veils,
Behind -- in the moon angel's gold oracle hair
What blood is this, is it the blood of the worker rat?
Is it the blood of the clone governor, the city maid?
Why does it course in s's & z's?
Blood on the couch, made for viewing automobiles & face cream
Blood on the pin, this one going through you without any pain
Blood on the screen, the green torso queen of slavering hearts
Blood on the grandmother's wish, her tawdry stick of Texas
Blood on the daughter's breast who sews roses
Blood on the father, does anyone remember him, bluish?
Blood from a kitchen fresco, in thick amber strokes
Blood from the baby's right ear, from his ochre nose
What blood is this?