Wednesday, January 09, 2013

2013 Inauguration: Richard Blanco Tapped As President Obama's Inaugural Poet

The first-ever Hispanic and openly gay poet chosen for an Inaugural Ceremony, and the youngest, too...
The Presidential Inauguration Committee today announced that Richard Blanco, 44, an award-winning author of three books of poetry and openly gay, will serve as President Obama's Inaugural Poet, reading an original poem at the swearing-in ceremony on Monday, January 21.  

President Obama was involved in the selection of participants in the inaugural program, including Blanco, the Committee said. 
The poet was born in Spain to Cuban exiles, raised in Miami, and currently lives in Maine.
 "I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural,” President Obama said.  “His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers. Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity."

"Blanco will be the youngest-ever Inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or LGBT person to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony," the Committee said.
"As a writer, Blanco explores the collective American experience of cultural negotiation through the lens of family and love, particularly his mother’s life shaped by exile, his relationship with his father, and the passing of a generation of relatives. His work also explores the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man."

"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco said.  "In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story—America’s story, really.  I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry."

Poet Elizabeth Alexander read an original poem for President Obama's first inaugural in 2009. 
The first inaugural poet was Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration. In 1993, at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou became the second inaugural poet and the first to read an original poem at an inauguration. She was followed by Miller Williams in 1997.

Blanco's background, from the Committee:

"Born in Spain to Cuban exiles, Blanco’s parents emigrated to New York City days after his birth and eventually settled in Miami. Blanco began his career as a consultant engineer. Writing about abstract concepts and preparing arguments on behalf of his clients helped Blanco think about the “engineering” of language, and he left his job in 1999 for the creative writing faculty at Central Connecticut State University until 2001. Thereafter he served as instructor at various universities throughout the country, including American and Georgetown universities, all the while maintaining his career in consulting engineer.

Blanco's career as an English-language Latino poet gained momentum when his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh. Blanco's second book of poetry, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, won the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award.  His third collection, Looking for The Gulf Motel, was published in 2012.

In addition to writing poetry, Blanco has worked to strengthen communities and support neighbors, from working with students on writing and interpreting poems throughout the country to serving as a member of his town’s Planning Board in Bethel, Maine where he currently lives. His commitment reflects the ideals of the National Day of Service, and demonstrates that, as President Obama has said, we can all give back to our communities."


*The menu and recipes for the President's Inaugural Luncheon ARE HERE.

*Author photo by Nico Tucci