U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera Launches His Second-Term Projects

The Library of Congress and U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera today announced the launch of Herrera’s second-term projects—an online narrative poem for second and third graders; a collaboration with high-school English teachers at Chicago Public Schools to create strategies for teaching poetry; and a writing lab in Fresno, California.

Herrera was appointed in 2015 as the 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry and reappointed in 2016 to serve a second term. During his laureateship, Herrera has chosen to conduct projects that champion poetry and creative writing for young children, older students and adults.

From 2016 to 2017, he is inviting second and third grade students and their school librarians from across the nation to contribute to "The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon," an illustrated narrative poem that will be featured on the Library of Congress read.gov website. The project launches with an introductory chapter and prompt written by Herrera and illustrated by artist Juana Medina. School librarians will work with students to submit responses. The narrative poem will contain six chapters, all guided by input from librarians and students. Herrera and Medina will post the final chapter in June 2017.

"The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon" is co-presented by the Library’s Educational Outreach Division and the Publishing Office. To view the project, visit www.read.gov/catalinaneon.

Continuing his work with students, Herrera and the Library of Congress will collaborate throughout the school year with the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on a program titled "Wordstreet Champions and Brave Builders of the Dream." Herrera will work with approximately 40 high school English teachers from CPS to develop new exercises and strategies for teaching poetry to freshmen. At the program’s conclusion, CPS (the country’s third most populous school district) will measure impact on participating teachers and their students.

Herrera’s third initiative during his second term involves the creation of a West Coast office, the "Laureate Lab—Visual Wordist Studio." It will be a performance/classroom space in the library of California State University in Fresno, where Herrera once taught and now lives. Herrera will use the newly inaugurated space to develop small scale, dynamic programs and classes for his local community, mixing poetry with visual arts, song and movement. Teachers, writers, artists and community members are welcome to join the Poet Laureate in his continuous experiment with language.

During his first term, Herrera’s project was an online initiative "La Casa de Colores" on the Library of Congress website, loc.gov/poetry/casadecolores. Each month, Americans contributed to an epic poem "La Familia." The project also included a monthly video feature by Herrera, "El Jardín," which highlighted the resources at the Library of Congress.

The author of 30 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, Herrera’s most recent works are "Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes" (2014), a picture book showcasing inspiring Hispanic- and Latino-Americans, and "Notes on the Assemblage" (2015), a volume of poems.

Herrera was born in Fowler, California, in 1948. As the son of migrant farm workers, Herrera moved around often, living in tents and trailers along the road in southern California, and attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. In 1972 he graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology. He then attended Stanford University, where he received a master’s degree in social anthropology, and in 1990 received a Master’s of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Herrera has written over a dozen poetry collections, including "Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems" (2008), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award.

For his poetry Herrera has received two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, a PEN USA National Poetry Award, the PEN Oakland / Josephine Miles Award, a PEN / Beyond Margins Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford University Chicano Fellows. He is a recent recipient of an honorary doctorate from Skidmore College.

Herrera has served as the chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at California State University, Fresno and held the Tomas Rivera Endowed Chair in the Creative Writing Department at the University of California, Riverside, where he taught until retiring in 2015. He served as the Poet Laureate of California from 2012-2015.

The Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the Library’s literary series and plans other special events during the literary season. For more information, visit loc.gov/poetry/.

The Educational Outreach Division at the Library of Congress is dedicated to providing educators with engaging methods and high-quality materials to effectively teach with primary sources. For more information, visit loc.gov/teachers/.

The Library of Congress Publishing Office publishes a wide range of materials based on the Library’s collections. It currently has more than 100 titles in print. For more information, visit loc.gov/publish/.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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