Lee Herrick Named California’s Next Poet Laureate


Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday named Lee Herrick, a Fresno-based writer and professor, as the state’s poet laureate, citing a body of work that “explores the diversity and vitality of the Californian experience and the exhilarating success of the American experience”. ”

Herrick, 52, was born in Daejeon, South Korea, and adopted at 10 months old by parents in Northern California. A former Fresno Poet Laureate, he teaches at Fresno City College and in the MFA program at the University of Nevada, Reno in Lake Tahoe. He has a wife and a daughter and lives in Fresno.

Herrick is the author of three books of poetry – “Scar and Flower”, “Gardening Secrets of the Dead” and “This Many Miles From Desire” – and has published verse in numerous literary magazines, anthologies and textbooks.

“As a teacher, poet and father, Lee writes movingly about his identity as a Californian and encourages others to reflect on what the state means to them,” Newsom said in a statement. “Lee’s dedication to highlighting the diverse experiences of Californians and making them so accessible through his poetry, makes him a perfect candidate for Poet Laureate. I look forward to his work to inspire communities and individuals. across the state through the power of the written word.

The former state poet laureate was Dana Gioia, former president of the National Endowment for the Arts, who served in the position from 2015 to 2018. The position had been vacant since Gioia’s departure.

“I am deeply honored, humbled and thrilled to be named California Poet Laureate,” Herrick said in a statement.

Herrick spoke to The Times in 2021 about being an Asian adoptee raised by white parents. He began discovering his Korean identity while in college after growing up in Danville, California. Having been the only student of color at his elementary school, he said books were his primary access to information about the culture he was born into. .

Asian adoptees are “beginning to believe that they are almost if not totally white,” he said. “It is a danger for everyone involved. There are those who deny their identity until they are in their fifties.

Herrick’s new role will see him champion the art of poetry in classrooms and boardrooms. He will serve a two-year term, once confirmed by the state Senate, and will receive a stipend from the California Arts Council.

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