Richard Blanco, 2013
February 15, 1968
|Occupation||Poet, Public Speaker, Civil Engineer, Teacher, Memoirist|
|Alma mater||Florida International University|
|Notable works||"One Today"
The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood
For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey
Until We Could Film
Looking for the Gulf Motel
Directions to the Beach of the Dead
City of a Hundred Fires
Nowhere but Here
Boston Strong: The Poem
Richard Blanco (born February 15, 1968) is an American poet, public speaker, author and civil engineer. He is the fifth poet to read at a United States presidential inauguration, having read for Barack Obama's second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet.
Blanco, born in Madrid on February 15, 1968, immigrated as an infant with his Cuban exile family to Miami, and was raised and educated there. He earned a B.S. from Florida International University in Civil Engineering in 1991 and his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 1997, where he studied with Campbell McGrath.
He explored his Cuban heritage in his early works and his role as a gay man in Cuban-American culture in Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012). He explained: "It's trying to understand how I fit between negotiating the world, between being mainstream gay and being Cuban gay." According to Time magazine, he "views the more conservative, hard-line exile cohort of his parents' generation ... with a skeptical eye." John Dolan was critical of his style, calling his work "pure identity poetics, unsullied by one single stray thought or original turn of phrase."
His work has appeared in The Nation, Ploughshares, Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, TriQuarterly Review, New England Review, and Americas Review. Blanco is part of the online Letras Latinas Oral History Project archives.
On January 8, 2013, he was named the inaugural poet for Barack Obama's second inauguration, the fifth person to play that role. He was the first immigrant, first Latino, and first gay person to be the inaugural poet. He was also the youngest. He was asked to compose three poems from which inauguration officials selected the one he would read. After reading "One Today," he said to his mother: "Well, Mom, I think we're finally American." The poem he presented, "One Today", was called "a humble, modest poem, one presented to a national audience as a gift of comradeship, and in the context of political, pop, and media culture, a quiet assertion that poetry deserves its place in our thoughts on this one day, and every day." Others called it "a rare break from the staid custom of ceremony that the rest of the afternoon brought" and assessed it as "Overall, the poem is successful, art meant to orient, to reconfirm collective identity in a time of recent tragedy. It's an optimistic, careful piece meant to encourage, a balm." Blanco planned to publish all three poems he composed for the event. He did so with the publication of For All of Us, One Today on November 19, 2013. The memoir chronicles his experiences creating the poems commissioned for the inaugural. It includes "One Today" along with the two other poems, "Mother Country" and "What We Know of Country," in English and Spanish.
In May 2013, Blanco wrote and performed a poem for the Boston Strong Benefit Concert. A chapbook of the poem was also published. The net proceeds of all sales of the chapbook benefit the One Fund, which helps victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. In addition, he has written and performed occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba, Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, and the Fragrance Awards at Lincoln Center.
He and his partner split their time between Bethel, Maine and Boston, MA. In the poem "Queer Theory, According to My Grandmother," he described how his grandmother warned him as a young boy: "For God's sake, never pee sitting down ... /I've seen you" and "Don't stare at The Six-Million-Dollar Man./I've seen you." and "Never dance alone in your room."
When asked in a May 7, 2012 interview with La Bloga whether he considered himself a Cuban writer or simply a writer, Blanco responded: "I am a writer who happens to be Cuban, but I reserve the right to write about anything I want, not just my cultural identity. Aesthetically and politically, I don't exclusively align myself with any one particular group—Latino, Cuban, gay, or 'white'—but I embrace them all. Good writing is good writing. I like what I like."
Blanco’s first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, was published in 1998 to critical acclaim, winning the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. The collection explored his cultural yearnings and contradictions as a Cuban-American coming of age in Miami and captured the details of his transformational first trip to Cuba, his figurative homeland.
Directions to the Beach of the Dead, published in 2005, explored the familiar, unsettling journey for home and connections, and won the PEN/Beyond Margins Award.
In 2012, Blanco's third book of poetry, Looking for The Gulf Motel, was published; it related Blanco’s complex navigation through his cultural, sexual, and artistic identities, and received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Poetry, and the Thom Gunn Award.
- 2015: Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir, The Prince of los Cocuyos
- 2015: Maine Literary Award for Memoir, The Prince of los Cocuyos
- 2014: Honorary Degree from Maine College of Art
- 2014: International Latino Awards Winner: Best Biography – Spanish or Bilingual, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey
- 2014: Honorary Doctor of Letters from University of Rhode Island
- 2014: Honorary Doctor of Letters from Colby College
- 2013: Honorary Doctor of Letters from Macalester College
- 2013: Paterson Poetry Prize
- 2013: United States Inaugural Poet
- 2013: Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow
- 2013: Maine Literary Award for Poetry, Looking for the Gulf Motel
- 2013: Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, Looking for the Gulf Motel
- 2007: Florida Artist Fellowship
- 2006: PEN Open Book Award (formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award) for Directions to the Beach of the Dead
- 2006: Florida Individual Artist Fellowship
- 2003: Residency Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
- 2002: Ronald D. Bayes Writer-in-Residence Fellowship from St. Andrew's College[disambiguation needed]
- 2000: John Ciardi Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference
- 1999: Florida Individual Artist Fellowship
- 1997: Miami Beach Art Council Grant
- 1997: Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize
- City of a Hundred Fires. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1998. ISBN 978-0-8229-5683-9.
- "Last Lines; Mother Picking Produce; What Las Palmas Mean:; Last Night in Havana; Tia Olivia Serves Wallace Stevens a Cuban Egg". Beltway Poetry Quarterly 5 (1). Winter 2004.
- Nowhere But Here. Hill-Stead Museum. 2004. ISBN 978-0-9744245-1-4.
- Directions to the Beach of the Dead. University of Arizona Press. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8165-2479-2.
- Looking for the Gulf Motel. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2012. ISBN 978-0-8229-6201-4.
- One Today. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8229-6251-9.
- Boston Strong. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8229-6275-5.
- For All of Us, One Today. Beacon Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8070-3380-7.
- The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood. Ecco Press. 2014. ISBN 978-0-0623-1376-8.
- Michael Collier and Rita Dove, ed. (2000). The Best American Poetry 2000. University Press of New England. ISBN 978-0-74320-033-2. poetry anthology
- Michael Collier, ed. (March 1, 2000). The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets. Bread Loaf Writers' Conference/Middlebury. ISBN 978-0-87451-964-8. poetry anthology
- Gerald Costanzo and Jim Daniels, ed. (2000). American Poetry: The Next Generation. Carnegie Mellon. ISBN 978-0-88748-343-1. poetry anthology
- David Lehman, ed. (April 2003). Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. Scribner Book Company. ISBN 978-0-7432-4350-6. poetry anthology
- Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. Sarabande Books. 2006. ISBN 978-1-93251-129-1. poetry anthology
- Michael Montlack, ed. (2009). Divining Divas: 100 Gay Men on Their Muses. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-23120-0., essay anthology
- Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belén, Harold Augenbraum, María Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, ed. (2011). Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. W. W. & Norton Company. ISBN 978-0-39397-532-1., poetry anthology
- Michael Montlack, ed. (2012). Divining Divas: 100 Gay Men on Their Muses. Lethe Press. ISBN 978-1-59021-383-4., poetry anthology
- Jim Elledge and David Groff, ed. (2012). Who's Yer Daddy. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-29928-940-9., essay anthology
- Bruce, Mary (January 21, 2013). "'One Today': Full Text of Richard Blanco Inaugural Poem". ABC News. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Sienna M Potts: Siennese.com. "Poetry of Place, Home, and Identity". Richard Blanco. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
- "PEN American Center - Richard Blanco". Pen.org. October 16, 2006. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
- Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (January 8, 2012). "Poet's Kinship With the President". New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Padgett, Tim (January 18, 2013). "Richard Blanco, Obama's Inaugural Poet: Not Your Father's Cuban Exile". Time. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Dolan, John. Richard Blanco: Why is it that poetry only rears its zombie head when we elect a democrat? NSFWcorp. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- "Author Detail: Richard Blanco". Pshares.org. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "Richard Blanco Will Be First Latino Inaugural Poet". NPR. January 9, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Sink, Justin (January 9, 2013). "Inaugural committee announces lunch menu, poet". The Hill. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Pringle, Caroline (February 6, 2013). "Inaugural poet talks 'One Today'". Yale Daily News. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Inauguration 2013: Richard Blanco's inaugural poem 'One Today'". Los Angeles Times. January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Tucker, Ken (January 21, 2013). "Poetry at the Presidential inauguration: The Richard Blanco poem 'One Today,' its form and meaning". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- Freedlander, David (January 21, 2013). "Richard Blanco, Obama's Historic Inauguration Poet". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- "Beacon Broadside". Beacon Press. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- "Rolling Stone". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
- "Amazon". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
- "The Poetry Foundation". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
- Tobar, Hector (January 9, 2013). "Richard Blanco named Obama's 2013 inaugural poet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "Interview with Richard Blanco". La Bloga. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "Richard Blanco". Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "Something To Declare: Celebrating Writers Of Color, October 16, 2006". PEN America. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Richard Blanco's Facebook Page
- "Richard Blanco", Poets.org bio
- CBS Sunday Morning Interview
- Morning Joe Interview, October 2014
- CNN Interview, August 2015
- "Daniel Olivas interviews Richard Blanco", La Bloga, May 7, 2012
- Poetry Society of America: Interview in the series "Red, White, & Blue: Poets on Politics"
- BBC interview, January 21, 2013
- Official Website