Richard Blanco

Joyce Tenneson

When President Obama was sworn into office for his second term in January 2013, it was Miami-raised writer Richard Blanco who read the inaugural poem.

He was the first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet in U.S.  history. And now Blanco, a child of Cuban immigrants, will put his poetic stamp on another historic event -- the re-opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Blanco, now a resident of Maine, was chosen to read his new poem during the re-opening ceremony before a crowd of Cuban officials and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

It's said that every writer spends his or her entire life working on a single poem or one story. Figuratively, of course, this means that writers are each possessed by a certain obsession. As such, their entire body of work, in one way or another, is generally an attempt to dimension some part of that obsession, ask questions about it, answer them and then ask many new questions.

Joyce Tenneson /

From the opening pages of poet Richard Blanco’s refreshing memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood,” it’s clear that you’re not wandering Calle Ocho in one of those nostalgic, Little Havana paradises that so many Cuban-American chronicles try to recreate.

Instead, you’re wandering a Winn Dixie in Westchester.

Richard Blanco: The Poem Not Taken

Dec 27, 2013

Miami-raised poet Richard Blanco had planned to take his partner to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration to sit on the platform as he read the poem he composed for the event.

He could only have one guest. But his partner had another idea, Blanco says.

“He says, ‘It should really be your mom to go with with you. This is so much more about the American Dream story.'”

So Blanco picked up the phone to call his mother to ask her if she even wanted to go.

Cuban cuisine has chewed its way into South Florida's culture. Many an abuela has shared family recipes for ropa vieja and bistec empanizado, through generations. WLRN wants a seat at your table to hear stories, memories or recipes from your kitchen.

When Richard Blanco got the call that he'd been chosen to write a poem for President Obama's second inauguration, at first he thought it was a prank. He still has no idea how he ended up on the President's radar.

"I would dream actually that the President has actually read my work and was so moved by it," says Blanco, laughing, "that he said, 'I want this guy to read a poem at the inaugural.'"

John Bailly

A painter who lives in Miami and teaches at Florida International University has collaborated with inaugural poet Richard Blanco to create paintings based on his poetry.

Their project, Place of Mind, will be exhibited in February in a New York gallery. The pieces were originally exhibited in 2007 at the main branch of the Miami-Dade Public Library.

Ohmega1982 /

Richard Blanco wasn't the only poet to pen a line for President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Last week, our partners at The Takeaway asked for your help writing a poem for the inauguration. 

Poet Kwame Dawes wrote the first line--"Say 'nation.' In the Wake of quarrels, say 'hope'"--and the audience tweeted the rest of the lines.

John Bailly

When Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, One Today, one of the friends cheering him from afar was South Florida painter John Bailly.

Bailly and Blanco met nearly 20 years ago and bonded over a shared interest in cultural identity. The conversations between friends led to Place of Mind, a collaboration of paintings and poems that has been on display in South Florida and is now on its way to New York.  

Bailly spoke to WLRN about culture, identity and working with Blanco to create the collection of images.

Photo by Michael Upright

Richard Blanco is home now, back in Miami after a six-year journey that launched the award-winning poet and FIU double-graduate into what was supposed to be the “real America.”

“The great prodigal return,” he calls it, the irony evident in his voice – not only about the places he’s been, but about the place he’s come back to. The journey has shaped much of Blanco’s recent poetry, and his evolving sense of identity as a writer, as the son of Cuban immigrants and as an American.