The music of Juan Felipe Herrera’s words endures to change the world we live in. His songs of activism and collective pride cross the genres of poetry, novel, memoir and oral tradition as effortlessly as they cross the barriers that isolate the groups he addresses. Most beautifully, they affirm the dignity of the individual in an increasingly violent and ethnically-conflicted society. Born the son of migrant farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Juan Felipe was inspired early in life by the writing of Allen Ginsberg and his books hip, hop and wail with the music of urban life.
In 2007, “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border” established a new landscape for Latino American poetry. With twenty-nine books published in poetry, spoken word, novels for young adults and collections for children, Herrera continues to work for all audiences. His recent awards for his poetry include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the Latino International Award, the PEN USA award and the Josephine Miles Pen/Oakland Award. He is a member of the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poetry and recently was appointed California Poet Laureate.
Juan Felipe once said, “If you want to write for the people, pour kindness inside every word.” His laureate project, “The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World,” encourages unity in the schools and communities of California. In addition, he also has worked with schools on the “i-Promise Joanna Project” addressing bullying and the new “Think Before Your Send,” Instant Messaging Poem Placards. This is writing that matters and inspires; a blues that soars and transcends.