Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate, on eating too many chilaquiles and returning to L.A.

By Alex Espinoza

From: The L.A. Times

la-la-et-cm-0609-herrera-04-jpg-20160330 (1)When he was young, Juan Felipe Herrera wanted to be a public speaker. “I dreamed of standing in front of an audience and giving these long speeches,” he explains by phone. But then he discovered poetry, and the color of the world changed. “People talk about seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but I started seeing things through poetry-colored glasses.”

On April 9, Herrera will be awarded the L.A. Times Book Prize’s 2015 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. “You’ve written poetry, prose, children’s books, young adult books and even plays,” I ask him. “Is there something you haven’t achieved that I don’t know about? Did you climb Mt. Everest?”

N’ombre,” he says. “I didn’t, but I did recently climb Mt. Chilaquiles.”

We laugh. I had caught Herrera just as he was waking up from a nap. There’s a slight rasp in his voice, and when I apologize for interrupting his rest he laughs again. “No worries, man. It’s good to hear you,hermanito.” He wants to know what I’ve been up to since we saw each other in January at Cal State L.A.’s Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, what I’m writing, if I’m still commuting between L.A. and Fresno. I tell him I’m good and remind him that we’re supposed to talk about his role as our country’s poet laureate and about his Kirsch award.

Herrera, who was born to migrant farmworkers in Fowler, Calif., in 1948, is the U.S. poet laureate. From 2012 to ’15, he served as poet laureate for California and counts a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry among his list of honors.

He has written more than 30 books, including the poetry collections “Notes of the Assemblage” (2015), “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border” (2007) and “Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse” (1999). His many books for children and young adults include “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes” (2014). Read Rest of Article Here


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