Inaugural Poeta

…or I should say Inaugural Poet. What blew me away when I read about Richard Blanco’s selection  to recite the Inaugural Poem is not that he is he son of Cuban exiles, making him an example that in America, it doesn’t matter from where you come, you can be anything. Not even that President Obama pointed the dedazo his way, choosing Blanco himself. In a statement on the Inaugural committee’s website, Mr. Obama writes:

“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.”


Richard Blanco CourtesyL Justin Sulivan/Getty Images

What mesmerized me is this little factoid on Richard Blanco’s website:

“…my dual life as a civil engineer by day, poet by night.”

“A builder of cities as well as poems…”

Blanco started off as a civil engineer, then what at first blush seems like a radical change, he decided to pursue the arts, earning a masters of fine arts in creative writing.

In effect, Blanco, a man who had a career change, will stand before millions expected to cram into the National Mall on Inauguration Day with millions more listening throughout the world.

America is often seen as the place where historically, people have been able to be–or become–whomever they wish. Devoid of the rigid class or caste system weighing down the “old worlds”, America’s bounty will provide, if you have the ganas.

At least that’s the myth.

In reality, anyone who is surviving this recession will wearily tell you, “reinvention’s a b****.”

Yes. It. Is.

So is all the Oprah bunk about following your passion and the riches will follow.

Still, the compelling storyline here goes beyond the select club of Inaugural Poet’s Society which he joins (kicked off by Robert Frost, Maya Angelou is also a member).

Or that he’s a “two-fer” on the diversity front: an American who is gay and of Latino descent.


I see a little Andy García…or his look alike Mark Strong…or maybe I should stop staring… Courtesy:

No, the most gripping element of his story is his journey, his lane change.

That he’s crossed–will always cross–intersections of identity, at times idling more in one than another.

Other times stalling, sometimes, maybe when younger, speeding through one, only to return, years later.

In times of transition, what an affirming credo.

Click on Richard Blanco’s website to learn more about the poet, read, and hear his critically acclaimed poetry published in three collections: City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and Looking for the Gulf Motel.

 What inspires you most about Blanco’s selection as the 2013 Inaugural Poet?


  1. says

    The fact that he was hand-picked by the Pres speaks volumes…. they’re watching. We may not think they are, but clearly the eye is on our accomplishments. I’m not surprised at his lane change… The artist in anyone will always come out; at some point. Lo bueno es que tuvo el poder y recursos para hacerlo! So excited. I’ll be down there that day! I still remember 2009 very vividly.

    • says

      B, how come I didn’t see you freezing in 2009? Maybe because we were one among a ba-zillion people on the Mall! I agree with your insights, especially about the artistic spirit being difficult to quell. Yes, the powers-that-be are watching. This is precisely why as a community we must step up our game on many levels: advocacy, educational achievement, and career moves. What’s the saying about pointing a finger at someone? There’s one pointing back at us.

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