Inaugural poet Richard Blanco to speak on campus Oct. 15

Richard Blanco
Photo by Craig Dilger

Richard Blanco was just the fifth person to hold the title of inaugural poet when he read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. Yet he was a first in many ways: He was the first Latino, immigrant or gay person to serve in such a role—as well as the youngest, at age 44.

Blanco followed in the footsteps of great writers such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou when he recited “One Today,” an original poem he wrote for the occasion.

After speaking in front of thousands at the U.S. Capitol Building, Blanco now will grace the stage at Ford Auditorium in the Allen Memorial Medical Library. The free, public event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 12:30 p.m.

Blanco’s talk specifically was scheduled during this time so SAGES instructors could bring their students during the Fourth Hour.

Blanco’s work is influenced by his cultural identity. He was born in Madrid, Spain, to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Florida International University.

He is the author of the poetry collections City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, Place of Mind and Looking for the Gulf Motel.

According to his biography: “Whether speaking as the Cuban Blanco or the American Richard, the homebody or the world traveler, the scared boy or the openly gay man, the engineer or the inaugural poet, Blanco’s writings possess a story-rich quality that easily illuminates the human spirit. His captivating images and accessible narratives invite readers and audiences to see themselves in his poems, which for him are like mirrors in front of which we stand side by side with him—each one of us gazing into our respective lives blurred together with his, connecting us all across social, political, and cultural gaps.”

In addition to his careers as as a poet, public speaker and author, Blanco has taught at Central Connecticut State University, Georgetown University and American University. He is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island.

His awards include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award.

This event is co-sponsored by Alianza Latina/Latino Alliance, the Department of Modern Languages, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the LGBT Center, La Alianza, the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Department of English and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.