Selected by President Obama as the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history, Richard Blanco is the youngest and first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role.
Blanco was born in Madrid in 1968, immigrating as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to the United States. The negotiation of cultural identity and universal themes of place and belonging characterize his body of work. He is author of the memoirs The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; the poetry collectionsLooking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; and a children’s book of his presidential inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey. With Ruth Behar, he co-created the blog Bridges to/from Cuba: Lifting the Emotional Embargo, which provides a cultural and artistic platform for sharing the real lives and complex emotional histories of thousands of Cubans across the globe. His latest project is the fine-press book Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler, featuring his poems paired with Hessler’s photographs.
His literary awards include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, two Maine Literary awards in poetry and memoir, and a 2015 Lambda Literary Award. In addition, Blanco has also written and performed occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the Boston Strong Benefit Concert, Freedom to Marry, the Fragrance Awards, and the Tech Awards in Silicon Valley. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as media from around the world. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, such as the Best American Poetry series, the Nation, the New Republic, the Huffington Post, and Condé Nast Traveler.
A builder of cities as well as poems, Blanco holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.F.A in Creative Writing. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. He has taught at Central Connecticut State University, Georgetown University, and American University. The Academy of American Poets named him its first Education Ambassador in 2015. Blanco lives with his partner in Bethel, ME.