Announcing the 2023 Frost Medalist, Juan Felipe Herrera

January 12, 2023

The Poetry Society of America is pleased to announce that Juan Felipe Herrera is the 2023 recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. Named for Robert Frost, and first given in 1930, the Frost Medal is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in American poetry and is awarded annually at the discretion of the PSA's Board of Governors. Previous winners of the award include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton, N. Scott Momaday, and most recently Sharon Olds.

The Frost Medal citation from the Poetry Society of America’s Board of Governors reads:

Juan Felipe Herrera does not write poems so much as inhabit them. “Poetry is where I live,” he writes, and he lives with a remarkable vibrancy, generosity, and compassion. His poems move as he moves—through nature, through working-class communities of color, through political protests—though it would be more accurate to say he moves with them, for while Herrera is a keen observer he is never just looking on. His poems are acts of solidarity, a kind of extended family gathering, especially for Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color. “With the poem, I can design a little corner for my families that have passed to live on, and for those brutalized by society to continue and be honored—to generate kindness.” Drawing on disparate sources, from European Modernism to Mesoamerican traditions to popular culture, Herrera creates a poetic voice that is both deeply embedded and wholly original. “Poetry,” he writes, “has gills and spears, spells and corn offerings, saxophones, tambourines and dinner tables—the sky liquid of a Jimi Hendrix guitar.” The Poetry Society of America is delighted and proud to award the Frost Medal, our highest honor, to Juan Felipe Herrera, a poet of enormous heart and infinite invention.

Son of farmworkers, Juan Felipe Herrera lives in Fresno with his wife, poet Margarita Robles. During the last fifty years, he has dedicated his life to poetry, community, art, and teaching. Herrera’s many collections of poetry include Every Day We Get More Illegal; Notes on the Assemblage; Senegal Taxi; Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems, a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007. He is also the author of Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse, which received the Americas Award. His books of prose for children include SkateFate; Calling The Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award; Upside Down Boy, which was adapted into a musical for young audiences in New York City; and Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box. His various awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, NEA Poetry Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowship, LA Times Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, Latino Hall of Fame Award, Pushcart Prize, UCR/LARB Lifetime Achievement Award, Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award, UCLA Chancellor’s Medal, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 2015, Herrera was appointed the 21st United States Poet Laureate, the first Mexican American to hold the position.

A selection of Juan Felipe Herrera’s books can be purchased through the Poetry Society of America’s store on Bookshop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.