U.S. Poet Laureate to deliver 2016 Emily Dickinson Lecture

United States Poet Laureate, PEN/Beyond Margins Award winner, and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Juan Felipe Herrera will deliver this year’s Emily Dickinson Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium on the University Park campus of Penn State.  

Herrera, who has also served as California’s Poet Laureate, is the first Latino to hold the U.S. Poet Laureate position. He is the author of numerous collections of poems and has also written short stories, young adult novels, and books of prose for children – including "Half the World in Light," which was adapted into a musical in New York City. Herrera has received the Americas Award from the Consortium of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for his young adult novel, "Crashboomlove;" and, the New Writer Award from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for his novel, "Calling the Doves."

As the current Poet Laureate, Herrera is working on a project titled "La Casa de Colores," which features his own pieces but seeks contributions from members of the community as well.  When he is not writing, Herrera is a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. He currently lives in California and serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. 

Although Herrera deals with heavy social and political topics in much of his work, NPR’s Craig Morgan Teicher describes Herrera and his poetry in a more positive light: “His wide-eyed amazement fortifies him with a joyful naiveté with which he meets the world, happy to encounter it again and again.”  Similarly, the New York Times’ Dwight Garner admires the way Herrera’s “senses are open toward the world and his bearing on the page is noble and entrancingly weird.”

Stephen Burt of the New York Times praises Herrera, saying: “Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of 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. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”

The Emily Dickinson Lectureship in American Poetry is made possible through the generosity of Penn State alumni George and Barbara Kelly. Additional support for the event comes from the Penn State Department of English and the University Libraries.

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Last Updated January 31, 2017