California’s Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

Again today I am lucky in my search for a great poem and poet to share on the Cupertino Poetry Exchange. Juan Felipe Herrara is the current California Poet Laureate — and if ever there was a cheerleader for poetry, this is the guy.

Earlier this week, Central Coast Public Radio, KUSP, hosted an interview with Juan Felipe on their Poetry Show. (Can we all just pause in wonder and admiration right now for a radio show with a “poetry show”???!!!)

It’s a delightful interview and Sr. Herrera also reads a couple of his poems. So, please, take a break, listen to the interview and poetry, and if you want more information about what this amazing energizer bunny for poetry is doing, visit his website and explore his projects. Here’s what he says about his life:

I grew up on the farm worker migrant trail. Marshall Elementary in SF, San Diego High. Attended UCLA, Stanford and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Write in many genres. Twenty-nine books. Have received a number of awards, most recent the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship. Abundant gratitude to my parents, families, teachers and students on many roads. Trees, animals, rivers and clouds. Gracias.

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

By Juan Felipe Herrera

for Charles Fishman

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.


I was very very fortunate to meet Sr. Herrera first at a California Poets in the Schools symposium last summer, and then to work with him again in March at the California State Poetry Out Loud Championship events in Sacramento. Here’s a photo of me (in the middle) with Brandon Cesmat (to the left, former CPitS board member) and Juan Felipe (shocked and amazed by the amazing students poetry performers and our exhaustion).


You can learn more about Juan Felipe at and


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