Whether speaking as the Cuban Blanco or the American Richard, the homebody or the world traveler, the shy boy or the openly gay man, the civil engineer or the civic-minded poet, presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco’s writings possess a story-rich quality that illuminates the human spirit. His work asks those universal questions we all ask ourselves on our own journeys: Where am I from? Where do I belong? Who am I in this world?
Selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, Richard Blanco is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. His inaugural poem “One Today” was later published as a children’s book.
Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity characterizes his four collections of poetry: How to Love a Country; City of a Hundred Fires, which received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Directions to The Beach of the Dead, recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and Looking for The Gulf Motel, recipient of the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award. He has also authored the memoirs For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey and The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, winner of the Lambda Literary Prize.
His latest book, Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler, challenges the physical and psychological dividing lines that shadow the United States. Blanco has written occasional poems for the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, and the Boston Strong benefit concert following the Boston Marathon bombings. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has received numerous honorary doctorates. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, and Wesleyan University. He serves as the first Education Ambassador for The Academy of American Poets.
Mr. Blanco’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Center for Writing and Public Discourse, the Chicano-Latino Student Affairs, and the CARE Center.