Richard Blanco

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.

rc! / Flickr

Richard Blanco's inaugural poem, One Today, may have addressed the whole nation, but the details were full of South Florida. 

A father's hands callused by cutting sugar cane, a mother who taught Blanco to speak Spanish--these are some of the personal details that worked their way into the poem.

Blanco is the son of Cuban exiles. He was born in Spain and came to Miami as a small child. His poetry draws on images of a childhood spent in a tight-knit South Florida Cuban community.

Richard Blanco will likely be Florida International University's most talked-about graduate today.

The 44-year-old is the youngest, first openly gay and first Hispanic inaugural poet.

Blanco has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from FIU as well as a Masters of Fine Arts from FIU's creative writing program.

If it seems like Blanco came out of nowhere, author and Virginia Tech professor Ed Falco begs to differ.

"Well FIU, first of all," he said, "has one of the best poetry programs in the country."

Christine Di Mattei

As South Florida prepares for a day of dual celebration for Inauguration Day and MLK Day, we are rounding up what is going on in the community, and what people are talking about.  There are watch parties all over the place- but we have sent our reporter Chris Di Mattei to the Arsht Center to sit in on the watch party there.  Our StateImpact education reporter Sarah Gonzales just happens to be in Washington D.C. for the event, and we are going to be hearing from her, too.

Palm Beach Poetry Festival

From the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to Old School Square in Delray Beach, poetry class is in session.

Today, 44-year-old Richard Blanco, the Miami-raised son of Cuban immigrants, becomes the fifth poet ever to take part in a President's inaugural ceremony.  Blanco is scheduled to read an original poem after President Obama is sworn in for his second term.

Meanwhile, poetry fans are converging upon Delray Beach for the 9th Annual Palm Beach County Poetry Festival, which runs through Saturday.

Nico Tucci

Today, Miami poet Richard Blanco will recite the poem he has composed for President Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony.

When Richard Blanco takes the stage Monday at President Barack Obama's second inauguration, the poetry community of South Florida will be paying especially close attention.

Blanco was born to Cuban parents in Spain. The family immigrated to the United States and settled in Miami when Blanco was a toddler. He trained to be a civil engineer but a class at Florida International University later launched his poetry career.

Blanco's poetry is full of images from a childhood in South Florida and a Cuban-American household.