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Davidson Welcomes U.S. Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco April 8

by Bill Giduz
Richard Blanco
Richard Blanco

Davidson College invites the public on Tuesday, April 8, to a reading and book signing by the heralded Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco.

There is no charge to attend the event, held from 11 a.m.-noon in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room. For more information call 704-894-2472.

Seven months pregnant, Richard Blanco's mother arrived in Madrid with her family, exiled from Cuba. Blanco was born in Madrid Feb. 15, 1968, and 45 days later the family emigrated once more to New York City. Only a few weeks old, Blanco already had ties to three countries, foreshadowing the concerns of place and belonging that shape his life and work.

Eventually the family settled in Miami where he was raised and educated, earning a college degree in engineering from Florida International University in 1991. He began working as a consulting civil engineer in Miami, but in his mid-20s he began to explore his creative side and express himself through writing. He returned to Florida International University where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing in 1997.

Blanco's first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, was published in 1998 to critical acclaim, winning the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Driven to examine the essence of place and belonging, Blanco became an extensive traveler. He eventually moved to Guatemala, then to Washington, D.C., where he taught at Georgetown and American universities. Poems relating to his journeys through Spain, Italy, France, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, and New England comprised his second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (2005). It garnered the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center.

Blanco returned in 2004 to Miami and resumed his engineering career. He designed several town revitalization projects during the workday, and completed an electronic chapbook, Place of Mind, after-hours. He soon was on the move again, this time to the ski resort town of Bethel, Maine, seeking the peace and tranquility of nature. While in Maine, he completed Looking for The Gulf Motel, published in 2012.

When President Barack Obama was elected, Blanco was chosen to serve as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States. He wrote an original poem titled "One Today," for the occasion, and read it at Obama's inauguration ceremony Jan. 21, 2013. He thus became the first Latino, immigrant, and gay writer to receive the honor, as well as, at age 44, the youngest.

In his first prose publication, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey, Blanco shared the emotion of his experiences as inaugural poet. Since the inauguration, Blanco has been named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, and received an honorary doctorate from Macalester College. He continues connecting communities with poetry for such organizations as Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, and the Fragrance Awards at Lincoln Center.

His appearance at Davidson is sponsored by the English Department and Bacca Foundation Visiting Scholar and Artist Program.