United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera dedicates a poem to the Emanuel Nine

"Poem by poem/ We can end the violence"

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NPR recently sat down with U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera in a poetry reading room in the Library of Congress. Herrera, a son of Mexican immigrants who grew up on the U.S./Mexico border, travels around the country reading his poems to various communities.

The poet laureate's work is timely, touching on salient social and political happenings. As part of this reading, Herrera reads three poems, one titled "Almost Livin' Almost Dyin" about Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, and the killings of two NYC police officers; "Fulgencio salio de Oaxaca hacia El Norte" a poem about a traditional Mexican festival read in Spanish; and "Poem by Poem" a tribute to the nine parishioners killed at Emanuel AME in June 2015. He also speaks on his creative process and answers a viewer question "can a poem change the world."

Herrera tells NPR that "as a human being ... I'm concerned about those things ... And I want my poetry to be concerned about it too." Watch Herrera's reading of "Poem by Poem" below.


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