Fowler native first Hispanic to be named CA poet laureate

Bee staff and news servicesMarch 21, 2012 

Writer, poet and activist Juan Felipe Herrera, a Fowler native and former Fresno State professor, has been named poet laureate of California.

Gov. Jerry Brown's office announced the appointment Wednesday. The 63-year-old is the author of 28 books and currently serves as chairman of the creative writing department at the University of California at Riverside.

Previously, he taught at California State University, Fresno, from 1990 to 2004. He was chairman of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department.

Herrera is the son of migrant workers from Mexico. He has received numerous national and international awards for his work documenting his experience as a Hispanic in the U.S. He also has won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry.

The governor's spokesman, Gil Duran, says Herrera is the first Hispanic to serve as California's poet laureate. The position requires Senate confirmation, and the California Arts Council provides an annual stipend of $5,000. The appointment is for two years.

Herrera is the first poet laureate of California to come from the Valley since the position was formally established in 2001. He's not the first, however, to hold the title.

Charles B. "Gus" Garrigus, a former state Assembly member and Reedley College professor, held the unofficial title of poet laureate of California from 1966 until his death in 2000. He was appointed by his colleagues in the state Legislature.

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