Juan Felipe Herrera, the First Mexican American U.S. Poet Laureate – The Contemporary Hispanic Poets Have Arrived!

The Library of Congress announced yesterday that the next U.S. poet laureate is Juan Felipe Herrera. He is the first Latino poet to be appointed to the position.

This significant achievement comes as no surprise to those familiar with Herrera’s work, especially Professor John Burns, Chair of the  Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Rockford University. In his new book Contemporary Hispanic Poets: Cultural Production in the Global, Digital Age, which was just published this March and launched at the recent Latin American Studies Association (LASA) international congress in Puerto Rico, Burns asserted that “Herrera is not heavy-handed, and when his work treads into the political realm, it embraces the ambiguities that are inherent in political value judgments.”

In discussing Juan Felipe Herrera‘s style, Burns also stated that “Herrera has not produced ‘the effect of the subaltern as subject’ for the sake of cultural legibility. Rather, he has attempted to articulate the space he inhabits, with all its playfulness and indeterminacy, thus avoiding essentialisms, strategic or otherwise. More often than not his work inhabits interstices, a space in between determined positions, and a space from which he can make those apparently determined positions—be they ethnic, political, or cultural—a little blurrier.”

This insightful observation makes it clear why learning more about Juan Felipe Herrera and his work (as well as other contemporary Hispanic poets) is critical not only for those in literary studies but in all disciplines of Latino studies.

Read the author interview with John Burns, author of Contemporary Hispanic Poets, which is in the Cambria Latin American Literatures and Cultures Series, headed by Cambria Latin American Literatures and Cultures Series headed by Román de la Campa, the Edwin B. and Lenore R. Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

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