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Blanco, Richard

Teaching Artist, Performer

“Blanco’s contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved the 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.” —President Barack Obama

Richard Blanco’s mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid where he was born. Forty-five days later, the family immigrated once more to New York City, and eventually settled in Miami. Only a few weeks old, Blanco already belonged to three countries, a foreshadowing of the negotiations of cultural identity, community, and belonging that would shape his life and continue to inform his work. As a poet, memoirist, and essayist, Blanco is a sought-after speaker who captivates audiences around the nation and the world with his dynamic storytelling and powerful readings.  Advocating for diversity, LGBTQ rights, immigration, arts education, cultural exchange, and other important issues of our time, Blanco routinely speaks at a variety of venues and functions, including fundraisers and galas, professional development conferences, middle and high schools, universities, commencement ceremonies, writing conferences, and literary festivals.

In 2013, Blanco was selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, joining the ranks of such luminary poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. He stands as the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Since 2016 he has served on the Obama Foundation’s storytelling committee. A committed proponent of the civic role that poetry can fulfill in the public realm, Blanco’s work addresses sociopolitical matters that affect us collectively. He is the contributing poet to “The Village Voice,” a bi-monthly segment on Boston public radio station WGBH that discusses news topics through the lens of socially conscious poetry. In addition, he has written and performed occasional poems in support of 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 Boston Strong benefit concert following the Boston Marathon bombings. In 2017, Two Ponds Press published Boundaries, featuring Blanco’s poems paired with Jacob Hessler’s photos. Together, their work investigates the boundaries of race, gender, class, and ethnicity, among many others; and challenges the physical, imagined, and psychological dividing lines—both historic and current—that shadow the United States. His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals. About this collection, poet Carolyn Forché reflects: “In this timely collection, Richard Blanco masterfully embraces his role as a civic poet, confronting our nation’s riddled history in the light of conscience. At once personal and political, these lyric narratives decry injustice and proclaim our hopes.”

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