Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco will be at the Carolina Theatre in Durham on Sunday, October 13, at 7:00 pm. Blanco is the youngest, first Latino, and first openly gay poet to serve as the Presidential Inaugural Poet.
President Obama tapped Blanco to read at his second inauguration. Blanco wrote his poem, “One Today,” especially for the occasion:
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience
In about 550 words, Blanco’s inaugural poem created a metaphorical country and took it through the journey of a metaphorical day.
Blanco was conceived in Cuba, born in Spain, and raised in Miami, Florida. A “whiz” at math, he became an engineer. He helped design bridges, road improvements, and an architectural site plan for City Hall in South Miami. But in his mid-20s, he said, he began asking himself questions about “identity and cultural negotiations and who am I, where do I belong, what is this stuff about Cuba my parents keep talking about?” Suddenly he felt “a deep need” to write.
Blanco decided to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts and creative writing. His first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, won the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He is also the author of Directions to the Beach of the Dead (Arizona Press, 2005) and Looking for the Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).
Blanco has said he feels an affinity for the current president because he too feels as if he straddles different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.
The Carolina Theatre is located at 309 W. Morgan St. in downtown Durham. This event is presented by Durham County Library and Durham Technical Community College, and sponsored by the Friends of the Durham Library, Durham Library Foundation and the Durham Technical Community College Foundation. Free and open to the public.