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.

 

 

Herrera, born to migrant farm workers from Mexico, writes in Spanish and English. Read three of his most well-known poems below:

"Everyday We Get More Illegal"

Yet the peach tree 

still rises

& falls with fruit & without

birds eat it the sparrows fight

our desert       

 

            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

Mexican

          Indian

                      spirit exile

 

 

migration                     sky

the grass is mowed then blown

by a machine sidewalks are empty

clean & the Red Shouldered Hawk

peers

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

 

walking working

under the silver darkness

            walking working

with our mind

our life

 

"Five Directions to My House"

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. 

 

"Blood on the Wheel" (excerpt)

     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?