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Fresno’s Literary Reputation Polished Again With State’s New Poet Laureate

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Fresno City College instructor Lee Herrick is the new California poet laureate. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom has named Fresno resident Lee Herrick as California’s poet laureate, the first Asian American to serve in the role.

“I am deeply honored, humbled, and excited to be named California poet laureate,” Herrick said in a statement issued Friday, Nov. 18.

“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,” Newsom said. “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.”

Fresno’s Reputation for World-Class Poetry

In 2015, Juan Felipe Herrera, a former Fresno State professor from Fowler, became the first Latino to earn the nation’s highest poetry honor as the 21st poet laureate of the United States.

Herrera had just completed a two-year term as California poet laureate in 2014.

Another Fresno resident, the late Philip Levine, served as the 18th U.S. poet laureate in 2011-12.

About Lee Herrick

Herrick, 52, was born in South Korea and adopted when he was 10 months old by parents from Northern California. He teaches at Fresno City College and in the MFA  program at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. He has a wife and daughter.

Herrick is the author of three poetry collections and has published verse in literary magazines, anthologies, and textbooks. His poetry books are Scar and Flower; Gardening Secrets of the Dead; and This Many Miles from Desire. He is the co-founder of Fresno’s LitHop.

As the city of Fresno’s poet laureate from 2015 to 2017, he led efforts to bridge communities and engage young people in expressing themselves through writing.

You can sample Herrick’s poetry at this link.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and first partner Siebel Newsom meet with California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. at Fresno City College’s Old Administration Building. (Office of Gov. Newsom)

Poet Laureate’s Duties

The 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.

The state’s previous poet laureate was Dana Gioia, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who filled the role from 2015 to 2018. The position had been vacant since Gioia’s departure.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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