April 5, 2017 Celebratory Events to Honor Juan Felipe Herrera, April 26

Poet Laureate Concludes Second Term

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Casper (202) 707-5394
Website: Tickets for noon choral concert External | Tickets for 7 p.m. panel & concert External | Livestream via YouTube (captioned) External | Livestream via Facebook Live External
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The Library of Congress will honor Juan Felipe Herrera, who is concluding his second term as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, with a series of celebratory events on Wednesday, April 26

The celebration, titled “Speak the People/the Spark/el Poema,” will kick off at noon with a choral performance by the Fresno State Chamber Singers in room 119 on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.  The singers, who hail from Herrera’s hometown, will perform newly commissioned pieces developed in collaboration with Herrera. 

Festivities will continue at 7 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.  This event is a panel discussion about the continuing emergence of Latino culture and its influence on the nation.  Participants will be Herrera; Martha González, Quetzal lead vocalist; Hugo Morales, the founder and executive director of Radio Bilingüe; and Louie Pérez, a singer and songwriter with Los Lobos.  Rafael Pérez-Torres, an English professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, will moderate the discussion. 

Immediately following the panel, a concert in the Coolidge Auditorium with the Grammy Award-winning East L.A. Chicano rock band Quetzal will close out the celebration. Quetzal brings together a wide range of musical influences, including Mexican ranchera, cumbia, salsa, rock, R&B, folk, and fusions of international music.  It is recognized as a leader and innovator in Chicano music.

All events are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. For the noon choral concert, tickets are available here: https://fresnostatechamber.eventbrite.com. For the 7 p.m.panel/concert please use: https://poetlaureate2017.eventbrite.com. The daytime and evening events will be live-streamed on the Library’s Facebook page at facebook.com/libraryofcongress and its YouTube site at youtube.com/LibraryOfCongress.

About the celebration, Herrera said, “Meshing poetry and music with the Fresno State Chamber Singers, a panel on Latino culture, music by Quetzal—this night is a culmination of two years of beautiful and thoughtful audiences; of trains, planes, cars, highways, children, teachers, and artists; of poetry seekers driving for miles to listen and exchange and tell me about their lives. This event will have all the love I can bring to it, and all the appreciations that have been given to me during these last two years; I hope to give back.”

Herrera is the author of 30 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children. He has been one of the most active Poets Laureate in the history of the position, with two first-term projects and three second-term projects. This past September, Herrera launched an online project, “The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon”—a bilingual illustrated poem created by Herrera and artist Juana Medina. This poem, presented at Read.gov, features contributions by second- and third-grade students and their elementary-school teachers and librarians from across the country.

Continuing his work with students, Herrera and the Library of Congress collaborated throughout the 2016–2017 school year with the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on a program titled “Wordstreet Champions and Brave Builders of the Dream” (loc.gov/poetry/wordstreet/).  Herrera worked with approximately 30 high-school English teachers from CPS to develop new exercises and strategies for teaching poetry to freshmen students.

 Herrera’s third initiative during his second term involved the creation of a West Coast office, the “Laureate Lab—Visual Wordist Studio,” serving as a performance/classroom space in the library of California State University in Fresno, where Herrera once taught and now lives. Herrera uses the space to develop small scale, dynamic programs and classes for his local community, mixing poetry with visual arts, song and movement.

For his poetry, Herrera has received two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and a PEN/Beyond Margins Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Stanford University Chicano Fellows. In 2016, Herrera was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement at the 36th L.A. Times Book Prizes.

The festivities honoring Herrera and the work he has done as Poet Laureate are presented by the Library's Poetry and Literature Center, its American Folklife Center, its Music Division, and its Hispanic Division.

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PR 17-046
ISSN 0731-3527