A “soulful cilantro fest” at Fresno State on Saturday, April 28, will showcase the return to campus of California’s 2012 Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, who was sworn in March 26 by Gov. Brown as the state’s first Latino poet laureate.

Herrera will read from new works and unveil his poet laureate project, “Primavera California,” at 4 p.m at the Leon S. and Pete P. Peters Educational Center in the Student Recreation Center (Woodrow and Shaw avenues). The free, public event, with a Latin-jazz percussive beat, is sponsored by the Fresno State Chicano Writers and Artists Association

A reception follows at 7 p.m. at Arte Américas in downtown Fresno (1630 Van Ness Ave.).

Herrera is a native of Fowler, 10 miles south of Fresno. He chaired Fresno State’s Department of Chicano and Latin American Studies from 1990 to 2004 before joining the faculty at the University of California, Riverside, where he holds the Tomás Rivera Chair in Creative Writing.

The poet laureate advocates for poetry in classrooms and boardrooms across the state, inspires emerging literary artists and educates Californians about poets and authors whose creative literary expression has influenced California.

Over a two-year term, the poet laureate provides six public readings in urban and rural locations. Herrera already has visited San Jose. The poet laureate also helps civic and state leaders appreciate the value of poetry and creative expression and undertakes a cultural project to bring poetry to students who otherwise have little opportunity to be exposed.

Herrera kicks off that mission at Fresno State where he will read from new work while incorporating jazz performed by Cilantro Troka. The percussion ensemble features congeros John Martinez and Mac Castillo of Fresno and Francis Pancho Wong from San Francisco, described by Herrera as a pioneer in Asian-American music and a jazz and community leadership builder.

Herrera’s new work consists of campesino story-poems, some based on songs from the 1930s and others “more percussive,” he said.

“I will be reading poems, also, from ‘187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border’ and ‘Loteria Cards,’” Herrera said, describing the event as “a soulful cilantro fest.”

He promised “a lot of improvisation, audience participation and recorded early corridos that I love. And some surprises. And I will hand out the Cilantro News Gazette with a free poem.”

Herrera has published more than two-dozen volumes of prose, poetry, plays, children’s books and young-adult novels.

For more information, contact Cynthia Guardado at cynthia.c.guardado@gmail.com.

(University Communications student news assistant Reganie Smith-Love contributed to this copy).

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