M. Miriam Herrera
◼︎ Department of Writing & Language Studies, UTRGV
◼︎ Mexican American Studies Program, UTRGV
◼︎ Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
◼︎ HaLapid Journal, Poetry Editor
Miriam teaches writing and Mexican American studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, located in the border regions of southmost Texas. She devotes her time to teachings in the Rio Grande Valley, instead of in upstate NY where her second home is located, because she finds meaning in contributing to the the border region's students; both are especially important to her because the region is her parent's ancestral home. Miriam, however, grew up in the midwest and reconnected to the area when her many relatives moved back at retirement age.
As a graduate of the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago with an MA in Creative Writing she was awarded an Abraham Lincoln Graduate Fellowship on the merits of her poetry masuscript. Her graduate advisor and mentors at the Program for Writers were the late Ralph J. Mills, editor of The Selected Letters of Theodore Roethke, The Notebooks of David Ignatow; and the Paul Carroll, founder of the Poetry Center of Chicago, Big Table Magazine, and the Big Table Series of Younger Poets. Later in life, she became a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers where she worked closely with mentor, Lucille Clifton.
Miriam's poetry has been published in Southwestern American Literature, New Millennium Writings, Earth's Daughters, Albatross, ArtLife, Blue Mesa Review, Nimrod: International Journal of Prose and Poetry, and other journals. Her first collection of poetry, Kaddish for Columbus, was a finalist in the New Women's Voices Chapbook competition and was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press. Miriam is the Poetry Editor for HaLapid: The Journal of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies.
Miriam's enigmatic ancestry compels her writing. As evidenced by her family's uniquely hybrid practices and traditions, it is likely they descend from crypto-Jews or "conversos" from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. These "conversos" or converts to Catholicism, fled the Spanish Inquisition and came to live in the New World. Descendants of these conversos intermarried with the Native Americans and old Christians that populated the American Southwest. Miriam explores her crypto-Jewish, Chicana, and Native American identity in her poetry. She writes about the paradoxical nature of identity and the many-layered process one must face to reconcile the splintered parts of one's self.
In her writing classes, Miriam encourages students to develop a flourishing writing process unique to each writer, to tap into their obsessions and write from the deepest parts of their most authentic selves, which must be discovered and nurtured. Miriam often stresses the organic nature of the poem, and how a writer must listen closely for guidance in unearthing what the poem wants to do in form, sound, image, and meaning.