Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

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Literary Reference

“This Was Iowa”

Iowa City
123 S Linn St

A feverish air seemed to wave from the flowers.
They opened their charred blossoms; light
curled, uncurled; inside the gold eyes, pollen, sand,
a lifting cane of thin bone.

I was looking at an art book on Georgia O’Keeffe
across from the First National Bank in Iowa City

I didn’t want to get lost in there, so I stared away
getting familiar in a small town.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. This Was Iowa. University of Iowa. Web. (PDF)


Juan Felipe Herrera reads at Prairie Lights Bookstore

Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City Iowa

The International Writing Program sponsored the readings of Finnish author Arto Kytohonka and UI Writers’ Workshop poet Juan Felipe Herrera at 7 p.m. in Prairie Lights Books on November 3rd, 1989.

In Brief: Sunday.The Daily Iowan, 3 Nov 1989, p. 2A.


Juan Philipe Herrera at the Mill

The Mill Restaurant

This was in ’88. I loved it [the workshop]. It was amazing. I loved the city, I loved the houses, I loved the people, I loved the students and I loved the workshops and my professors. They all were very different. I loved the [group] of students that I got to know. It was just fun. After the workshop, we’d go have a brew at the Mill, which the poets owned.

Keckeisen, Kevin. “Interview with Juan Felipe Herrera.” The Highlander. Accessed 28 Sept 2016.


Juan Philipe Herrera in the Workshop

University of Iowa Main Library
125 West Washington St.

While a student at the Workshop, Herrera worked as

a part-time UI admissions counselor and a participant in ‘the life-on earth soap bubble brigade – that’s my other activity,’ he says. And Herrera is always willing to share with students, friends and passers-by — even his secret salsa recipe.  

Jackson, Cathy. “‘Akrilica’ shows poet’s vision”. The Daily Iowan. 19 June 1989.


Juan Philipe Herrera in the Workshop

Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Herrera describes himself in the Workshop as being “thirsty and hungry, without knowing it.”

“I picked up so many ways of writing,” says Herrera, 68, who was named the country’s 21st poet laureate in 2015 and passed the title to Tracy K. Smith in June 2017. “All the books I’ve written after 1990, all of them used what I learned in the workshop.”


Juan Philipe Herrera on studying with Marvin Bell

Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

He refers to three of his instructors—Marvin Bell, Gerald Stern, and Jorie Graham—as “a triad of magnificence that I hugely learned from,” and says the Workshop gave him time to “focus on the page” and develop a new aesthetic, or “tool kit,” to complement the one he’d developed through years as an activist poet.

“When I walked out of there, I had this new tool kit that I didn’t have before,” he says. “When you put both tool kits together, for me, that was the greatest joy—it’s like you have two secret formulas all of a sudden.

Juan Felipe Herrera, author of numerous poetry collections including 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), earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990. In 2015 he was named U.S. poet laureate. 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.


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