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Governor Newsom Appoints California Poet Laureate

Lee Herrick of Fresno to serve as California’s 10th Poet Laureate


SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today appointed Lee Herrick to serve as California’s 10th Poet Laureate. Herrick, 52, of Fresno, is a writer and professor who teaches at Fresno City College and the MFA program at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. A former Fresno Poet Laureate, Herrick’s work is a vivid celebration of the California experience.
 
“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,” said Governor Newsom. “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.”
 
Herrick’s poetry canon explores the diversity and vitality of the California experience and the exhilarating success of the American experiment. Born in Daejeon, South Korea and adopted as an infant, he grew up in Modesto immersed in literature, art and various cultural influences.

Governor Newsom and First Partner Siebel Newsom meet with California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick


Herrick writes eloquently on the immigrant experience – bringing to life the smell of chapchae and the sound of mariachi trumpets, the farmers market at midnight, and the small talk of Armenian neighbors. Herrick’s work is a Whitmanesque celebration of the best spirit of our state, the vibrancy of the Central Valley, and ourselves.

“I am deeply honored, humbled, and excited to be named California Poet Laureate,” said Herrick, who will use his platform called Our California to bring together poetry with a social justice or civic engagement organization in each city that he visits during his term as Poet Laureate. “I am grateful to Governor Newsom, his staff, First Partner Siebel Newsom, the Fresno Arts Council, the City of Fresno for making me a poet, poets and writers and readers throughout this great state, friends, teachers, colleagues, students, and mostly, my family, parents and sister, and my wife and daughter for their love and light.”
 
Herrick served as Poet Laureate of the City of Fresno from 2015 to 2017, where he led local efforts to bridge communities and engage young people in expressing themselves through writing.
 
“I’m thrilled that Lee Herrick will serve as California’s next Poet Laureate. Lee’s poetry invites us to reflect on our love of California and reminds us of the values we hold so dear — our inclusivity, empathy, and creativity,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Lee’s deep understanding of culture and community alongside his irrefutable talent will no doubt guide him throughout his tenure as our state’s poetry advocate. I look forward to working with him as he spreads a love and appreciation of poetry and literature across California, especially amongst our youth.”
 
Herrick’s work has been published in the Bloomsbury Review, Columbia Poetry ReviewBerkeley Poetry Reviewthe Normal SchoolThe Poetry FoundationZYZZYVA, and other publications. He is a contributor to many anthologies, particularly those examining the literary flourishing of California’s Central Valley. Herrick is the author of three books of poetry: Scar and Flower, Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire.
 
The California Poet Laureate is charged with advocating for poetry in classrooms and boardrooms across the state, inspiring an emerging generation of literary artists, and educating all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced our state through creative literary expression. Over the course of a two-year term, the Poet Laureate provides public readings in urban and rural locations across California, educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression and undertakes a significant cultural project, with one of its goals being to bring poetry to students who might otherwise have little opportunity to access it.
 
This position requires Senate confirmation and the California Arts Council provides an annual stipend. Herrick is a Democrat.