Watch PBS NewsHour’s senior correspondent and chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown report on Juan Felipe Herrera, the current U.S. poet laureate.
This marked the first week as U.S. poet laureate for Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st poet to hold the position and first Hispanic poet to do so, as well as the beginning of a new nation-wide poetry project.
Herrera announced his project, “La Casa de Colores,” earlier this month at the National Book Festival. The project will combine submissions from the public across a different theme each month; combined, they will form one giant epic poem over the course of his laureateship.
Starting this week, anyone can submit up to 200 characters per 30 days to the project on the Library of Congress’ website. From now until Oct. 15, submissions should address the subject of family.
“La Casa de Colores, ‘the House of Colors,’ is a house for all voices. In this house we will feed the hearth and heart of our communities with creativity and imagination. And we will stand together in times of struggle and joy,” Herrera said in a statement on the project.
Herrera gave his inaugural reading on Tuesday at the Library of Congress, where he performed a variety of pieces from the span of his career, including “Are You Doing That New Amerikan Thing?” and “Saturday Night at the Buddhist Cinema.”
He also spoke about his path to writing and poetry, which began in third grade in San Diego when his teacher Mrs. Sampson asked him to sing a song in front of the class. When he was finished singing “Three Blind Mice,” she told him: “You have a beautiful voice.”
Those words were powerful in Herrera’s life, and he has spent the time since then telling others the same thing, he told the audience at the Library of Congress. “And I’m going to say it to you tonight: You have a beautiful voice,” he said.