Richard Blanco, a Cuban American poet whose work has explored his immigrant roots and homosexual awakening, will deliver the poem at President Obama’s inauguration this month, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Wednesday.
Blanco, 44, will become the youngest poet and the first Hispanic to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony, the committee said.
“I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second inaugural,” President Obama said in a written statement. “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.”
Blanco will recite his work during Obama’s public swearing-in ceremony Jan. 21, which coincides with the holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiles. His parents moved to New York City soon after his birth and later moved to Miami, according to a bio provided by the committee . Blanco wrote poetry while also working as a “consultant engineer.” He left his job in 1999 for a post at Central Connecticut State University’s creative writing faculty, where he taught until 2001. He also has also taught at Georgetown and American universities. He lives in Bethel, Maine.
His first collection of poems, “City of a Hundred Fires,” won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh. His second book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” received the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. His third, “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” was published last year.
Robert Frost became the first inaugural poet when he recited from his work at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Maya Angelou became the second when she appeared at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993; she also was the first to read an original poem. Miller Williams served as inaugural poet in 1997, followed by Elizabeth Alexander in 2009, the committee said.