Governor Newsom names Lee Herrick as California Poet Laureate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom today named Fresno resident Lee Herrick as California Poet Laureate.

The role of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry across the state, to inspire a rising generation of literary artists, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced creative literary expression in California.

“I am deeply honored, humbled and excited to be named California Poet Laureate,” said Herrick, who will use his Our California platform to share poetry with an organization in every city he visits during his tenure for social justice or civic engagement as a poet prince. “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 in this great state, friends, teachers, colleagues, students and most of all my family, my parents and my sister as well as my wife and daughter for their love and light.”

Over the course of a two-year tenure, the California Poet Laureate provides public readings and engagements in urban and rural settings statewide; educates citizens and heads of state on the value of poetry and creative expression; and undertakes a major cultural project aimed at bringing the poetic arts to students who might otherwise have little opportunity for exposure to poetry.

“I am pleased to learn that Fresno poet Lee Herrick has been selected for the position of California Poet Laureate,” said California Arts Council Chair Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, who also serves as Executive Director of the Fresno Arts Council. “[Herrick] is a wonderful example of the talented writers and poets who hail from the Central San Joaquin Valley. I know he will represent us well across the state.”

Herrick succeeds Dana Gioia, who held the position from 2015 to 2018.

Upon learning of Herrick’s appointment, Gioia remarked to the California Arts Council, “It is wonderful to have a poet from the Central Valley, the heart of our vast and complicated state.”

“He will know that there is an eager audience for poetry all over California, not just in the big cities,” Gioia added.

About Lee Herrick

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 vibrant celebration of the California experience.

Herrick’s canon of poetry explores the richness and vitality of the California experience and the heady success of the American experiment. He was born in Daejeon, South Korea and adopted as a child. He grew up in Modesto immersed in literature, art and various cultural influences.

Herrick writes eloquently about the immigration experience – he brings the smell of to life chapchae and the sound of mariachi trumpets, the midnight farmer’s market and the small talk of the Armenian neighbors. Herrick’s work is a Whimanesque celebration of our state’s best spirit, the vibrancy of the Central Valley, and ourselves.

Herrick was the City of Fresno Poet Laureate from 2015-2017, where he led local efforts to bridge communities and engage young people in writing.

Herrick’s work was published in the Bloomsbury review, Columbia Poetry Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, the normal school, The Poetry Foundation, ZYZZYVA, and other publications. He is the author of numerous anthologies, particularly those examining the literary heyday of California’s Central Valley. Herrick is the author of three volumes of poetry: Scar and Flower, Garden Secrets of the Dead and So many miles from Desire.

About the nomination process for California Poet Laureates

The position of California Poet Laureate was established as part of the California Government Code in 2001 by AB 113, authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavley. Through this statute, the California Arts Council administers the nomination process for the California Poet Laureate.

Following a call for nominations from the general public, electronic applications are reviewed by a panel of knowledgeable and experienced California poets, selected in consultation with representatives of literary organizations, universities and other experts in the field.

The jury members examine all applications and limit the number to 15 to 25. The panelists then meet, evaluate the best applications, and rank them according to the judging criteria: recognition for outstanding work, a significant body of published work, consideration as a poet of stature, and a willingness to undertake a specific project to last during tenure . The names of the top three applicants will be sent to the Governor’s Office for further review. The governor makes the final selection and names the California Poet Laureate, which must be confirmed by the Senate.

Former California Poets Laureate

1915 – 1928 Ina Donna Coolbrith

1929 – 1931 Dr. Henry Meade Bland

1933 – 1944 John Steven McGroarty

1953 – 1961 Gordon W Norris

1966 – 2000 Karl Garrigus

2005 – 2008 Al Young

2008 – 2011 Carol Muske-Dukes

2012 – 2014 Juan Felipe Herrera

2015 – 2018 Dana Gioia

To learn more, visit

Media Inquiries:
Kimberly Brown
Specialist in public affairs
[email protected]

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The California Arts Council is a state agency with a mission to empower arts, culture, and creative expression as tools to build a better California for all. It supports local arts infrastructure and nationwide programs through grants, initiatives, and services. The California Arts Council envisions a California where all people with universal access to and participation in the arts will thrive.

California Arts Council members include: Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, Chair; Consuelo Montoya, Vice-Chairman; Gerald Clarke, Vicki Estrada, Jodie Evans, Ellen Gavin, Alex Israel, Phil Mercado and Roxanne Messina Captor. Learn more at

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