M. Miriam Herrera

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M. Miriam Herrera is an American author and poet. Her poetry often explores Mexican American or Chicano life and her Crypto-Jewish and Native American (Cherokee) heritage, but mainly the universal themes of nature, family, myth, and the transcendent experience. Herrera was born to natives of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas in Sutherland, Nebraska, where her parents had been working in the sugar-beet fields. She was raised in Aurora, Illinois, where her parents moved to escape a migratory life of farm work.

Herrera's literary influences include Theodore Roethke, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gary Soto, Lucille Clifton, Flannery O'Conner, and Pablo Neruda. Herrera began writing poetry as a grade school student when she met Gwendolyn Brooks, former Poet Laureate of Illinois, when Brooks read her poetry at Herrera's elementary school.

Herrera attended the University of Illinois Program For Writers and earned her Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing in 1981. She studied with John Frederic Nims, the editor of Poetry Magazine; Ralph J. Mills, editor of The Selected Letters of Theodore Roethke and The Notebooks of David Ignatow; and Paul Carroll, founder of the Poetry Center of Chicago and of Big Table Magazine. While attending the University of Illinois at Chicago, Herrera was involved in the Chicano literary community, which included Sandra Cisneros, Carlos Cumpian, Norma Alarcón, Ana Castillo, and Ralph Cintron, et al., as her contemporaries.

Herrera taught Creative Writing, Poetry Writing, Chicano/Latino Literature, and Expository Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos; South Bay College, Hawthorne, California; and Russell Sage College, Troy, NY. She is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, CA, and is the founder of the Writing Studio, Medusa Community of Poets & Writers, and the Audre Lorde Poetry Prize at Russell Sage College.

Herrera descends from Crypto-Jews or Conversos. These converts to Catholicism escaped the Spanish Inquisition for the New World where they intermarried with the indigenous peoples and old Christians who populated the American Southwest. Her poetry collection, Kaddish for Columbus explores the enigma of these divergent identities and landscapes the poet inhabits:

"Mythic borders appear in the poems as a metaphor for life that are found beyond physical space—the borders between peoples, ideas, religions, landscapes; between science and spirit, between self; how identities are transformed when one side collides with another; how the poet, a descendant of both Columbus and Native Americans, reconciles ambiguity." [1]


  • Kaddish for Columbus: Finishing Line Press (2009)


  • Southwestern American Literature (2009): "Ahuacatl," "Blessing the Animals," "La Malinche"
  • Albatross: "Elegy for an Angelito" (2009)
  • Earth's Daughters (2008): "Once I Heard My Father Cry"
  • Rainmakers Prayers Anthology (2008): "Kiva at Chaco Canyon"
  • New Millennium Writings (2006–2007): "In the Calyx"
  • Squaw Valley Poetry Anthology (2005): "At the Edge of Town"
  • Artlife: The Original Limited Edition Monthly (Vol. 25, No. 8, Issue No. 273) "Witch Wife"
  • New Zoo Poetry Review (Vol. 4): "Father's Love Letter"
  • Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry (Vol. 41, No. 2): "Kaddish for Columbus"
  • Blue Mesa Review (No. 3): "Kiva at Chaco Canyon"
  • Ecos: A Latino Journal of People's Culture and Literature (Vol. 2, No. 2): "To Jenny," "First Snow," "Waterfall"; (Vol. 2, No. 1): "Visit Home," "Love Poem for Charles"
  • Black Maria (Vol. 4, No. 2): "Driving in Fog," "Dream of Three Girls at Play"



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