Richard Blanco | 2015 Featured Poet

Click Here to Read Richard Blanco’s Poetry

Poet will be on campus for Workshop/Poetry Reading on Wednesday, April 01, 2015.

Blanco inauguration

Acclaimed Cuban-American Poet and President Obama’s Inaugural Poet 2013, Richard Blanco was born in Madrid in 1968. His mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family had arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid two months before his birth. Forty-five days later, his family emigrated once more, to New York City this time. Only a few weeks old, Blanco already belonged to three countries, a foreshadowing of the concerns of place and belonging that have shaped his life and work. Eventually, the family settled in Miami where he was raised and educated. Growing up among close-knit Cuban exiles instilled in him a strong sense of community, dignity, and identity that he has carried into his adult life as a writer.

Excelling in math and the sciences, Blanco earned his first degree in engineering, believing it would ensure a more stable and rewarding career. He began working as a consulting civil engineer in Miami. In his mid-20s, prompted by questions of cultural identity and his personal history, he felt compelled to express his creative side through writing, He returned to college and earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. He has traveled extensively in his adult life, living and working throughout Europe and South America. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Writer’s Center and Central Connecticut State University. Blanco currently resides in the tranquil mountains of Bethel, Maine.

His books, in order of publication, are: City of a Hundred Fires (1998), Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005), Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012), One Today (2013), Boston Strong (2013), and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013).All have been published to critical acclaim and won major awards. In City of a Hundred Fires, he explores his cultural yearnings and contradictions as a Cuban-American, and captures the emotional details of his transformational first trip to Cuba, his figurative homeland. The poems in Directions to the Beach of the Dead relate to his journeys through Spain, Italy, France, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, and New England in his explorations of the ideal of home and connections through place, culture, family, and love. Looking for the Gulf Motel explores the complex navigation through his cultural, sexual, and artistic identities.

In 2013, Blanco was chosen to serve as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, following in the footsteps of such great writers as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Blanco performed One Today, an original poem he wrote for the occasion, becoming the youngest, first Latino, immigrant and openly gay writer to hold the honor.On this occasion, he reflects on his spiritual embrace of Americans everywhere through the power of poetry and his vision for its new role in our nation’s consciousness. In the inaugural poem itself, Blancospeaks to what makes this country and its people great, marking a triumphant moment in American history and letters

Following the inauguration, he continued connecting communities through occasional poetry. He has written and performed occasional poems for such organizations as Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards and the Fragrance Awards. In May of 2013, Blanco wrote Boston Strong, an occasional poem he performed at a Boston Garden Benefit Concert and at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Following his performances, he released a limited edition Boston Strong chapbook, with all proceeds going to those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

Blanco continues to write and perform for audiences around the world. In addition to his occasional poetry and performances, he is currently working on a full-length memoir and is collaborating with renowned illustrator Dav Pilkey on a children’s book. When asked in a 2012 interview 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.”  

Join us for one of our country’s most talented poets and one of its most eloquent communicators. Blanco will be on campus to read some of his poems, talk about his writing process, and respond to questions at a 10:00 AM session on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. He will read his poetry at an 8:00 PM session. Both events will be on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Both sessions are also free and open to the public for those who arrive first. Full Circle Bookstore will be at the events selling Blanco’s books, and he will sign books after both sessions. An Open-Mic Poetry Reading will be held from 6:15 PM to 7:30 PM. All events will take place in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of the Meinders School of Business, between N. Blackwelder and N. McKinley.

Please plan to be at Oklahoma City University for the Seventeenth Annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series on April 1, 2015: Conversations with Richard Blanco. The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature will collaborate with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU English Department, The Oklahoma Humanities Council, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, Full Circle Bookstore, and other groups to make these events possible.