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Acclaimed poet to speak in Turlock
juan herrera
U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will be giving a special poetry reading and lecture at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock in September.

Tickets for the event, which is expected to sell out, go on sale today for Carnegie and MoSt Poetry Center members; sales open to the general public on July 15.

Herrera will be the keynote speaker at the Carnegie’s Centennial celebration set for Sept. 18 and will lead a writing workshop for high school students on Sept. 19.

As part of the 100th anniversary activities for Turlock’s original library building, the reading will take place during the opening weekend of the Carnegie’s fall exhibition “Childhood Classics: 100 Years of Original Illustration from the Art Kandy Collection,” which features original artwork, special commissions, and favorite characters from as many as 75 books for children.


The agricultural experience and migrant life became an important influence in Herrera’s poetry. He was the son of migrant workers and spent much of his youth in farming communities around California, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. He also draws on his time in San Diego’s Logan Heights, and San Francisco’s Mission District for many of his works.


“All these landscapes became stories, and all those languages became voices in my writing, all those visuals became colors and shapes, which made me more human and gave me a wide panorama to work from,” Herrera said.


He earned his collegiate degrees at UCLA and Stanford and MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His numerous poetry collections include “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007,” “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (2008), and “Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream” (1999). In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature.


In addition to his poetry, Herrera is known as a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry/opera and dance/theater. His children’s book, “The Upside Down Boy” (2000), was adapted into a stage musical. His books for children and young adults have won several awards, including “Calling the Doves” (2001), which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and “Crashbomlove” (1999), a novel-in-verse for young adults which won the Americas Award.


Critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera in the New York Times as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.”


In 2012, Herrera was named Poet Laureate of California, and was selected as U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council. He has taught at California State University-Fresno and at the University of California-Riverside. He currently lives in California.


The workshop will target students interested in creative writing and poetry, with invitations sent out to teachers of “at-risk” programs first.  Sponsor funding will be used to provide bus transportation for schools from throughout Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced Counties to make participation in this unique opportunity free of charge.  The Carnegie expects to accommodate as many as 150 high school students in the workshop, which will include a presentation by the author, time for students to write and share poetry facilitated by poets and teachers from MoSt, followed by lunch.


The poetry reading and lecture will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Carnegie. Only 200 tickets are available. Individual lecture tickets are $25 General Admission, $20 CAC and MoST members, and $15 for students.  A limited number of premium tickets will be available for $50 and will include a pre-lecture reception and book signing with the author, as well as reserved seating at the lecture.


The event is being sponsored by the Prime Shine and Porges Family Fund, Wells Fargo, Members of the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center, Priscilla Peters and John Miles, and Dieter and Hanna Renning. Sponsorships are still available. Contact the Carnegie Arts Center: 209-632-5761, x101 or


Tickets will be on sale at