Here’s a fun fact: the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Juan Felipe Herrera, is in the unusual position of pre-dating our current Librarian of Congress! Herrera was appointed by the previous Librarian, James H. Billington, and he was re-appointed by acting Librarian David Mao back in April—five months before the swearing-in of Dr. Carla Hayden. In fact, Dr. Hayden didn’t have the opportunity to meet with the Laureate until he passed through the capital in late October.
I was happy to be in the room when Juan Felipe and Dr. Hayden did finally shake hands and sit down together, in the Librarian’s Office. And when Juan Felipe, in his customary way, announced he had written a poem for the occasion, I thought: I should film this! Here is a video of the Laureate reading his poem to the Librarian, entitled “Each Book is a Story”:
The Poet Laureate wrote the poem on the cardboard insert for his nice new dress shirt—here is a picture of the original version:
The final version, slightly revised by Juan Felipe, is as follows:
Each Poet Laureate brings different strengths to the position, finds different ways to use the position to promote poetry. One of Juan Felipe’s greatest strengths is his ability to write an occasional poem. It was only fitting that he do so for Dr. Hayden, to honor their meeting but in a larger sense to mark the historic and inspiring moment of her appointment.