Blanco, 44, will be the first Latino and the first openly gay poet to recite one of his works at a U.S. presidential inauguration.
The first poet to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration was Robert Frost, who participated in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural in 1961. Just three other poets have been chosen to do likewise since then: Maya Angelou, Miller Williams and Elizabeth Alexander.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Blanco said that he was “made in Cuba” but – given that at that time people could not travel directly to the United States from the island – his mother decided to first travel to Spain, where he was born, and then later the family emigrated to New York.
Blanco, the author of “City of a Hundred Fires” and “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” among other works, said that his poem will be on the theme of the inauguration: Our People, Our Future.
“Even though it’s been a few weeks since I found out, just thinking about my parents and my grandparents and all the struggles they’ve been through, and how, you know, here I am, first-generation Cuban American, and this great honor that has just come to me, and just feeling that sense of just incredible gratitude and love,” he said.
“I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second inaugural,” Obama said in a statement. “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 began his working career as an engineering consultant and during the course of developing abstract concepts and arguments for his clients he began to explore the engineering of language.