Poet Juan Felipe Herrera has been publishing poetry for almost four decades, and most of his body of work is represented in his poem Half the World in Light. Like all of his previous poems, its central theme is the Chicano experience in the United States, and it is almost more like an essay, or a narrated play, than a poem. This work is abundant in religious imagery, something that Herrera is well-known for. Herrera is the son of migrant farm workers, and it is predominantly their truth that he speaks in the poem; the work also details his interpretation of both his family's past and his own present. Herrera is a first-generation American, and was educated at Stanford University, and this poem is in many ways a unification of the three experiences of California that he has seen in his life.
He details the small agricultural towns of the San Joqauin Valley, where he grew up, San Diego's Logan Heights, and San Francisco's Mission District, all of which combined to create his own unique view of the world and his place in it as a Mexican American.
Herrera has spoken frequently of the way in which Allen Ginsberg has influenced his poetry, and especially its narrative style. Herrera is credited with inventing an entirely new style of narrative for his own works, particularly Half the World in Light, which is almost more spoken-word than anything else, and incorporates both the English and Spanish language.
In 2012 Herrera was named California's Poet Laureate and three years later was named Poet Laureate for the entire United States. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.