Presidential Inauguration Gets First Latino, Gay Poet

The presidential inauguration ceremony is getting its first Latino and LGBT poet.

Richard Blanco, born in Spain to Cuban exiles, will recite a selection of his work during President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Jan. 21, Obama's Inaugural Committee announced. Blanco also will be the youngest inaugural poet at a swearing-in ceremony.

"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,” President Obama said in a statement.

Blanco's parents emigrated to New York City days after he was born then settled in Miami. Interested in the “engineering” of language, Blanco's first poetry collection, "City of a Hundred Fires," won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and his second book, "Directions to The Beach of the Dead," won the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. 

He published a third collection in 2012 called "Looking for The Gulf Motel."
The Inaugural Committee describes his work as an exploration of "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."
"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco said. “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.”

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