The Presidential Inauguration Committee has announced that Richard Blanco will serve as the inaugural poet at the swearing-in ceremony Jan. 21.
"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe and gratitude,” Blanco stated. “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.”
Blanco’s selection by the committee and the president is historic. He is openly gay, and will become the first openly LGBT person to recite a poem at an inauguration. He is a Cuban-American, and will be the first Hispanic person to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration.
The president, in a statement, said, “I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural. 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.”
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.
He worked as an instructor at various universities throughout the country, including American and Georgetown universities, and continued to a career as a consulting engineer.
His first poetry collection, “City of a Hundred Fires,” won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh.
His 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.
A news release from the presidential 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.”