The first month of the fall season is about over, and Juan Felipe Herrera has one month behind him as the Poet Laureate. In addition to his National Book Festival event and his opening reading, and the launch of his online project “La Casa de Colores” for the Library of Congress, he has found the time for the following:
- An interview for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and another for the Kojo Nmamdi Show
- A conversation with fellow Academy of American Poets Chancellors Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye, in the Library’s Poetry Room, on the topic “The Civic Responsibility of the Poet in America Today.”
- For the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), his response to the question, “What to do when you’re overwhelmed.”
- A podcast for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Praise for Juan Felipe has been overwhelming. On the publication of his newest poetry collection, NPR’s Craig Morgan Teicher wrote a brilliant and moving review. Rigoberto Gonzalez took the opportunity of the publication to give a sweeping account of our Laureate’s career, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Juan Felipe also fit in a number of readings, including the tribute to Philip Levine this past Thursday at Cooper Union in New York. I was back home for the tribute as well, to remember our 18th Poet Laureate and my dear friend. On the way to the event, we walked past a hat shop, and Juan Felipe found the perfect hat for the evening: something colorful to match his shirt, which Phil would’ve been tickled by. And on the subway there I asked Juan Felipe to read the poem he’d chosen for the evening, Phil’s “Today and Two Thousand Years from Now.” It made for an unforgettable moment—Juan Felipe’s sense of syntax (and hand movements!) jazzing up the signature voice in the poem, as my wife and I blocked out the train’s clanking and groaning.
With that all in the past, I can only imagine what wonders we have ahead! I will report more on our Poet Laureate reading in Chicago for Poetry Day, as well as the expansion of “La Casa de Colores.” Stay tuned.