Richard Blanco

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Richard Blanco
Richard Blanco, 2013
Richard Blanco, 2013
BornRicardo Blanco
(1968-02-15) February 15, 1968 (age 53)
Madrid, Spain
OccupationPoet, Public Speaker, Civil Engineer, Professor, Memoirist, Author
Alma materFlorida 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 the poem "One Today" for Barack Obama's second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and at the time the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet.[1]

Blanco's books include 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.

He has been a professor, having taught at Georgetown University, American University, Central Connecticut State University, Wesleyan University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Colby College, Carlow University, and currently at Florida International University. His passion is to demystify poetry teaching to all ages including grade school to nursing homes, at diverse writers workshops (e.g. Omega Institute, Maine Media Workshops), correctional institutions (prison), and non-profits including the Writer's Center.[2][3] He serves as the first Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets.[4]


Richard Blanco's mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid where he was born on February 15, 1968. Forty-five days later, the family immigrated once more to New York City. Blanco was raised and educated in Miami.[5] His first book of poetry, City of 100 Fires, explores these negotiations of cultural identity as a Cuban American immigrant.

Blanco reading his poem "One Today" at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, 2013

Between 1999 and 2001, Blanco traveled extensively through Spain, Italy, France, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, and New England. This wanderlust of travel exploring the meaning of home resulted in his second book of poems Directions to The Beach of the Dead.

In his third book of poetry, 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."[6] 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."[7] According to Time magazine, he "views the more conservative, hard-line exile cohort of his parents' generation ... with a skeptical eye."[8] John Dolan was critical of his style, calling his work "pure identity poetics, unsullied by one single stray thought or original turn of phrase."[9]

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."[10]

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.[11] He was also the youngest.[12] Maya Angelou said of Blanco: “He showed great courage, and it’s courage (that) is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. So I was very pleased with that". [13] 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."[14] The poem he presented, "One Today",[15] 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."[16] 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."[17] Blanco planned to publish all three poems he composed for the event.[14] He did so with the publication of For All of Us, One Today on November 19, 2013. The memoir chronicles his American Dream 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.[18]

In May 2013, Blanco wrote and performed a poem for the Boston Strong Benefit Concert at TD Garden and Fenway Park ("Boston Strong").[19] A chapbook of the poem was also published and net proceeds of all sales benefiting the One Fund, which helps victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.[20] In addition, he has written and performed occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Cuba ("Matters of the Sea / Cosas del mar"),[21] Freedom to Marry ("Until We Could"), the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley ("Genius of Stars and Love"), the opening of Aspen Ideas Festival ("Cloud Anthem"), Orlando Pulse Nightclub Tragedy ("One Pulse - One Poem"), International Spa Association ISPA Conference and Expo ("Ignite the Self Who Loves You Most"), University of Miami commencement ("Teach Us, Then"), the Fragrance Foundation Awards at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts ("To the Artists Invisible"), and commissioned by US Today for National Hispanic Heritage Month ("the U.S. of us"). He collaborated with author and artist Nikki Moustaki to create a video for his poem "Election Year" that was also published in the Boston Globe two days before the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.[22] The Atlantic recently commissioned a poem for the coronavirus pandemic called "Say This Isn't the End."[23]

Blanco collaborated with Bacardi Havana Club on the launch of their heritage campaign "Don't Tell Us We're Not Cuban" Samuel Adams Brewery on "Love Conquers All, Pride[24]" and Philadelphia Boys Choir on lyrics for Gershwin's re-imagined Cuban Overture.[25] Other collaborations include musical compositions with Grammy Award-winning jazz/classical pianist and composer Paul Sullivan,[26] prized composer Pablo Ortiz choral setting of "Leaving Limerick in the Rain" at Boston Symphony Hall for Terezin Music Foundation to honor the 70th Anniversary Liberation of Nazi concentration camps,[27][28] and several poems from his recent book How to Love a Country by minister of music and composer Tom Davis.[29] He was honored that his poem "One Today" was projected on the big screen at the U2 Joshua Tree tour.[30] In addition, Blanco has collaborated with Caldecott Medal renown cartoonist, author and illustrator Dav Pilkey on One Today illustrated children's book. He also partnered with photographer Jacob Hessler on the limited edition fine press poetry book Boundaries, with artist John Bailey on series of Ekphrastic paintings called Place of Mind, and with Ramio Fernandez on the photography book Cuba Then.

Since 2017, Blanco has been contributor and host of the "Village Voice" radio program on WGBH (Boston).[31] He was appointed as a founding member of Obama Foundation Advisory Council. Since 2014 he has hosted visiting writers program and retreat at Gould Academy.[32] Blanco is a member of the prestigious Macondo Writers Workshop, the workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros.[33] Richard is currently teaching Florida International University, his alma mater for both Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (1991) and Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (1997). He and his partner live in Bethel, Maine.[6]


Blanco's poetry has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker,[34] Ploughshares,[35] The New Republic, Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, Americas Review and TriQuarterly Review. He has published articles and essays in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, Indiana Review and several anthologies, including Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and Great American Prose Poems. Blanco is part of the online Letras Latinas Oral History Project archives.

Richard'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.[36]

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.[37]

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,[38] and received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Poetry, and the Thom Gunn Award.[39][40]

Beacon Press published Blanco's fourth book of poetry, How to Love a Country, in March 2019.[41]




  • City of a hundred fires. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1998. ISBN 978-0-8229-5683-9.
  • 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.
  • En Busca Del Gulf Motel (Spanish). Valparaiso Ediciones. 2014. ISBN 978-8416560547
  • Matters of the Sea / Cosas del mar. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2015 978-0822964001
  • One Today Children's Book Illustrated by Dav Pilkey, Little Brown Press: 2015 ISBN 978-0316371445
  • Boundaries, Two Ponds Press. 2017. Limited Edition Fine Press with Photographer Jacob Hessler[56]
  • How to Love a Country. Beacon Press. 2019. ISBN 9780807025918, OCLC 1043141209
List of poems
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
My father in English 2019 "My father in English". The New Yorker. 94 (48): 51. February 11, 2019.
Anthologised in

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bruce, Mary (January 21, 2013). "'One Today': Full Text of Richard Blanco Inaugural Poem". ABC News. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  2. ^ Sienna M Potts: "Poetry of Place, Home, and Identity". Richard Blanco. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  3. ^ "PEN American Center - Richard Blanco". October 16, 2006. Archived from the original on October 2, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  4. ^ "An Evening of Poetry with Richard Blanco". September 24, 2018. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  5. ^ "Richard Blanco". Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (January 8, 2012). "Poet's Kinship With the President". New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  7. ^ Tobar, Hector (January 9, 2013). "Richard Blanco named Obama's 2013 inaugural poet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  8. ^ Padgett, Tim (January 18, 2013). "Richard Blanco, Obama's Inaugural Poet: Not Your Father's Cuban Exile". Time. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  9. ^ Dolan, John (January 22, 2013). "Richard Blanco: Why is it that poetry only rears its zombie head when we elect a democrat?". NSFWCORP. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  10. ^ "Interview with Richard Blanco". La Bloga. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "Richard Blanco Will Be First Latino Inaugural Poet". NPR. January 9, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  12. ^ Sink, Justin (January 9, 2013). "Inaugural committee announces lunch menu, poet". The Hill. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  13. ^ "Alicia Keys, Oprah Winfrey Celebrate Black History With Maya Angelou". Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Pringle, Caroline (February 6, 2013). "Inaugural poet talks 'One Today'". Yale Daily News. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  15. ^ "Inauguration 2013: Richard Blanco's inaugural poem 'One Today'". Los Angeles Times. January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Freedlander, David (January 21, 2013). "Richard Blanco, Obama's Historic Inauguration Poet". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  18. ^ "Beacon Broadside". Beacon Press. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  19. ^ "Rolling Stone". Retrieved May 11, 2014.
  20. ^ "Amazon". Retrieved May 11, 2014.
  21. ^ "Poet Richard Blanco On U.S., Cuba: 'We All Belong To The Sea Between Us'". Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  22. ^ Blanco, Richard (2016). "Election Year Poem". Boston Globe.
  23. ^ Blanco, Richard (June 25, 2020). "Say This Isn't the End".
  24. ^ Blanco, Richard (June 5, 2020). "Samuel Adams "Love Conquers All, Pride"".
  25. ^ Richard, Blanco (2016). "Gershwin Cuban Overture". prnewswire.
  26. ^ Sullivan, Paul (2019). "Paul Sullivan Richard Blanco Collaboration". Ellsworth American.
  27. ^ Blanco, Richard (2015). "Leaving Limerick in the Rain". Terezin Foundation.
  28. ^ Blanco, Richard (2015). "70th Anniversary Liberation Nazi Camps Anthology". Liberate.
  29. ^ Davis, Tom (2018). "How to Love a Country Musical Compositions". Pandora.
  30. ^ Sams, Aaron (2018). "One Today Showing U2 Joshua Tree Tour".
  31. ^ Blanco, Richard (2017). "Village Voice WGBH". WGBH.
  32. ^ Blanco, Richard (2014). "Blanco Visiting Writers Program and Retreat".
  33. ^ " - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  34. ^ Blanco, Richard (2019). "My Father in English". NewYorker.
  35. ^ "Author Detail: Richard Blanco". Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  36. ^ [1]
  37. ^ "Directions to the Beach of the Dead". UAPress. July 12, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  38. ^ "Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco". The March 23, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  39. ^
  40. ^ "2012 Maine Literary Awards". Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  41. ^ Blanco, Richard (2019). "Blue Flower Arts: Richard Blanco". Penguin Random House. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  42. ^ "Something To Declare: Celebrating Writers Of Color, October 16, 2006". PEN America. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  43. ^ "Richard Blanco". Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  44. ^ Blanco, Richard (2014). "International Latino Awards". Lasco Madres.
  45. ^ Blanco, Richard (2015). "Lambda Literary Award". Lambda Literary.
  46. ^ Richard, Blanco (2016). "FIU Torch Award". FIU.
  47. ^ Blanco, Richard (2016). "Honorary Doctorate Lesley University". Boston Globe.
  48. ^ Richard, Blanco (2017). "Harold Keables Chair". Iolani School.
  49. ^ Blanco, Richard (2018). "Lunder Artist in Residence". Colby College.
  50. ^ Blanco, Richard (September 2018). "Inter-American Dialogue 2018 Gala".
  51. ^ Blanco, Richard (2019). "HHRC Human Rights Award". HHRC.
  52. ^ Blanco, Richard (2019). "Advocate Magazine Champions of Pride". Advocate.
  53. ^ Blanco, Richard (May 2019). "Teach Us, Then Performance and Honorary Doctor of Letters". University of Miami.
  54. ^ Blanco, Richard (July 2019). "2019 Great Immigrants: Award Honorees".
  55. ^ Blanco, Richard (July 18, 2020). "Richard Blanco-We Need to Talk Now More Than Ever".
  56. ^ Richard, Blanco (2017). "Boundaries". Two Ponds Press.

External links[edit]



Recorded readings[edit]

Other external links[edit]