Former poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera is this year’s winner of the Frost Medal for lifetime achievement, with judges praising him for a “a poetic voice that is both deeply embedded and wholly original.”
Herrera, 74, is known for such collections as “Half the World in Light” and “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border.” He was California’s poet laureate from 2012-15 and U.S. poet laureate from 2015-17.
Born in Fowler to parents who were farmworkers, Herrera went on to graduate from UCLA and Stanford University. He is a professor emeritus at Fresno State’s Department of Chicano and Latin American Studies. He has written more than 30 books.
“His poems move as he moves — through nature, through working-class communities of color, through political protests — though it would be more accurate to say he moves with them, for while Herrera is a keen observer he is never just looking on,” reads his citation Wednesday from the Poetry Society of America’s Board of Governors.
“His poems are acts of solidarity, a kind of extended family gathering, especially for Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color,” the citation also read.
Fresno Unified named an elementary school in honor of Herrera in 2022.
Previous recipients of the Frost Medal, named for the late Robert Frost, include Wallace Stevens, Adrienne Rich and Sharon Olds.