#AWP16 Featured Presenter Q&A with Juan Felipe Herrera

AWP | February 2016

Event Title: To Bring Song to the World: Three Poets on Art and Inspiration, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
Description: Whether it be a film, a painting, a song, a photograph, or something else, art in all forms is a powerful force of cross-pollination for writers, and especially for poets, who engage intellectually and emotionally with art and artists across time and disciplines. Each of these four poets’ individual cultural references provides a juxtaposition of images and techniques that create illuminating renderings of place and history within the landscape of language.
Participants: Alison Granucci, Linda Gregerson, Juan Felipe Herrera, and W.S Di Piero
Date & Time: Friday, April 1, 2016, 8:30pm – 10:00pm


Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: Well, I have been carving into T.S. Elliot and Johnny Keats—and the critical work on their writing and also Robert Hass' anthology, Modernist Women Poets, Ilan Stavens’ Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry and a touch of Ignatieff’s bio,Isaiah Berlin: A Life. I am looking forward to new work by Francisco X. Alarcón.

Q: Given how much time writers spend alone to practice their craft, what do you think are the advantages of creating the large community that exists at the AWP conference? 
A: Community is the magic word. We need it. Poets—well, we thrive when we see each other, we jump, we trade wrinkled sheets of scrawl and drawings. Most of all, we sip the nectars of what we do so we can move on—with our hearts full.

Q: What question that you’ve never been asked before would you like to ask yourself? And how would you answer that question?
A: Q: Why didn’t you persist in your craving for visual art and sculpture in your early days. A: Poetry took me over. Then it gave me all that in an odd dish.

Q: Outside of the conference, what about Los Angeles are you looking forward to? Are there any Los Angeles activities you would recommend to conference attendees? 
A: You got me. I have not been in LA for a while. The Los Angeles I know dissolved in 1972. I recommend the new shows in the art museum, the Bacalao’ in East LA, the surf on any beach and some solid meditation at Paramahansa Yoganandya’s gardens.


Juan Felipe  HerreraJuan Felipe Herrera is the current Poet Laureate of the United States and the first Latino to hold the position. From 2012 to 2014, Herrera served as California State Poet Laureate. Herrera’s many collections of poetry include Senegal TaxiHalf of the World in Light, a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007. He is also the author of CrashBoomLove: A Novel in Verse, which received the Americas Award. His books of prose for children include SkateFate; Calling the Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award; Upside Down Boy, which was adapted into a musical; and Cinnamon Girl.

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