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UC Riverside Poet Honored

UC Riverside Poet Honored

The prestigious Academy of American Poets elects Juan Felipe Herrera to its Board of Chancellors.

(January 12, 2011)

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Celebrated poet Juan Felipe Herrera, professor and holder of the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, has been elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Previous chancellors of the prestigious literary organization have included poets Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Robert Penn Warren and James Merrill.

“Being elected to be a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets is a grand gift – a generous and kind recognition of 40 years of work in the field of the literary arts,” Herrera said. “I thank the academy, my familia, my teachers, my UCR colleagues and all my poetry tribes. It will be an honor to serve as an ambassador of poetry to the world at large, to nourish the gardens of spirit for all. I will keep in mind my beginnings as a poet – the stories of my father’s journey from Chihuahua to New Mexico before Mexico’s revolution, and the songs my mother carried from Mexico City in 1918 en route to El Paso, Texas.”

Herrera was one of three prominent American poets elected to the board. The others are Mark Doty and Anne Waldman. They were elected by current chancellors Victor Hernández Cruz, Rita Dove, Marilyn Hacker, Lyn Hejinian, Edward Hirsch, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Ron Padgett, Carl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Marie Ponsot, Kay Ryan, Gerald Stern, Susan Stewart, and C.K. Williams. Tree Swenson, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, made the announcement on Jan. 11 in New York City.

“Juan Felipe Herrera’s poems bring joy, light and insight into a world that increasingly lacks these basic aspects of what it means to be human. He richly deserves this award,” said Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at UCR.

Associate Dean Georgia Warnke said Herrera’s colleagues have come to expect him to receive prestigious awards on a regular basis. “Nevertheless, his election to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets is especially gratifying,” she said. “It is wonderful to see Professor Herrera receive this kind of well-deserved recognition.”

Academy Chancellor Sharon Olds called Herrera “a poet of intense passion, imagination, empathy, and wit. And he lets each poem take him where it will, into its own inward strangeness and outward clarity. I came across Juan Felipe Herrera's ‘Inside the Jacket’ during a time of upheaval in my life, when I needed to be aware of the full range of what I was feeling, and I did not know how. I would say the poem over and over to myself, and its love and anger and beauty kept me company, and empowered me.”

Born in Fowler, Calif., Herrera earned a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology from UCLA, a master’s degree in social anthropology from Stanford University, and a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He joined the UC Riverside faculty in 2005.

Herrera has published 28 volumes of poetry, prose, theater, children’s books and young adult novels, among them “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (University of Arizona, 2008), which received the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, the International Latino Award in poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007” (City Lights Publishers, 2007), a poetry collection that received the PEN USA Award. He also has received the Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, and fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, as well as the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship. Other honors include the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction and the Focal Award.

The prestigious Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets, according to the organization’s website. It sponsors National Poetry Month, which the academy describes as “the largest literary celebration in the world”;, a popular website about poetry; the Poetry Audio Archive, which features American poets reading their work; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events.

The Board of Chancellors selects recipients of the Wallace Stevens Award and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and acts as consultants to the organization on matters of artistic direction and programming, and serve as ambassadors of poetry in the world at large, according to the website.

The academy’s founder, Marie Bullock, created the board in 1946, insisting that its members “be chosen from amongst literary persons of the highest standing. They must themselves be known for their good judgment and eminent integrity of opinion. They should geographically represent the entire United States, so that their choices will be representative of the nation as a whole, and not of one trend of thought, or literary clique, or section.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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