An openly-gay and relatively unknown poet, Richard Blanco, has been chosen by President Obama as his 2013 inaugural poet to read a poem at the president’s inauguration.
The 44-year-old Blanco, who lives in Maine with his partner, has often focused on his identity as a gay and Latino man in his work. He told the New York Times that he has always felt a connection to Obama.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background. There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him,” said Blanco.
In a press release from The White House, the president commented: “I’m honoured that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural…
“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 added: “I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honour, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude. 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.”
As the official 2013 inaugural poet, Blanco joins poetry luminaries such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou who had the same honour in the past.
Notably, he will be the “youngest-ever Inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or LGBT person to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony”.
Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiles who immigrated to the US when he was an infant. He first worked as an engineer before focusing on creative writing.
He has published three collections of poetry and has won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh and the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award.
Blanco will write a new poem specifically for the president’s ceremonial swearing-in in Washington on 21 January.