The poet laureate of the state visits RCC

Riverside City College received a special treat on May 22 as Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s poet laureate, met with students and faculty as he shared his personal life through his readings.

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By Javier Cabrera / Editor-in-chief

Celebrity status (Allison Perez / Photo Editor)

By Javier Cabrera / Editor-in-chief

Riverside City College received a special treat on May 22 as Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s poet laureate, met with students and faculty as he shared his personal life through his readings.
The Stay Classy Creative Writing Club at RCC hosted the one-hour event in Room 122 at the Administration building as the club welcomed the community to join them to experience the opportunity to have such a guest as Herrera.
“It is a huge deal,” said Jazzy Smith, the club’s president. “He represents all of California, and for him to come here to RCC, it is just amazing.”
The club was able to bring Herrera to RCC because its adviser, Jo Scott-Coe, has known Herrera for quite awhile.
“As a working writer, you meet writers, you go to readings and you study with people,” she said. “I met Juan Felipe when I was a student at UC Riverside, so I got to know him a little bit and read his work; I just thought how great it would be to have him here.”
Scott-Coe said Herrera has incredible generosity, and he believes in the community college system, so she felt it was important to invite him to RCC because it is a real honor for the college.
Smith said she felt great with having other students join the event because the idea is not about the writing aspect.
“It is about gaining a community, just knowing people out there and sharing your stories, that is more important,” she said.
Alex Contreras, elect-president of the club, said the club is having an impact to the community with allowing students and faculty join them for events such as this one.
“It is amazing because we show it is not about the writing, it is so much to that, it is just not a word, paper or pencil; it is motions and it is life,” she said. “We all go through it every day it just depends on how you express it.”
Herrera said he is using events like the one at RCC as a tool in his project to give Californians the chance at discovering poetry.
He wants to group people, children, poets, galleries, schools, community centers and programs into one form because he wants to include everyone in his plans.
“I make sketches and outlines of the California Poet Laureate Project-I want to have everyone involved,” he said. “And then people call me, radio stations, television, educators, conference people and associations and they want me to present; and then I think (about how) I am going to recruit them to help me generate poetry for everyone in California.”
Herrera said he describes the thought of being California’s poet laureate as an evolving awareness.
“My first thought was, ‘Really?’ I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “So all of a sudden California became a neon green, ‘Oh now I am apart of California in a very different way,’ and poetry is now what I am going to do here but in a different way.”

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