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Juan Felipe Herrera on being a U.S. Poet Laureate.

Jan 11, 2016

Juan Felipe Herrera speaks at Paepcke Auditorium on Tuesday, as part of Aspen Words' Winter Words series.
Credit Carlos Puma / University of California, Riverside

Juan Felipe Herrera is a renowned poet from California. In 2015 he was selected to be the Poet Laureate of the United States.

He is the first Latino to be selected for this position. His poems cover topics of identity, bridging gaps in American life and navigating through an increasingly diverse world. He is speaking on Tuesday as part of Aspen Words’ Winter Words series  

Highlights of their conversation...

On going to UCLA during the Chicano movement...

"When I got to UCLA in 1967, I was ready to blow open and meet the world, and meet everybody and be part of everything. My family became the Chicano movement. That was my home ground...I got up on podiums. I didn't want to be silent anymore. I had a hard time speaking up. I was afraid to speak. I had been punished for speaking Spanish very early on in elementary school. When I was shut down, I had to come back up."

On challenges he faces now that he's poet laureate...

"I learn more as I meet (people). I really get to see what's going on...I see all those streams come together. I'm writing non-stop all the time. I don't have time to type it. I'm also noticing the  difference between creativity and the incredible destruction that's taking place throughout the world...I say 'how can that be possible?'"