Perhaps feeling guilty for his controversial Hagel nomination, President Barack Obama has chosen relatively obscure, openly gay and openly Latino poet Richard Blanco to read at his inauguration ceremony on January 21.
According to Addie Whisenant, spokeswoman for the inaugural committee, the president chose Blanco because his “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.”
The son of Cuban exiles, Blanco becomes both the first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet, joining the likes of caged bird Maya Angelou and Robert Frost, the inaugural inaugural poet. Blanco is also the youngest poet to be chosen for the prestigious gig.
His first two collections of poems, City of a Hundred Fires and Directions to the Beach of the Dead, explore his Cuban heritage while his latest, Looking for the Gulf Motel, deals with what it’s like being gay in Cuba’s traditionally conservative culture.
“It’s trying to understand how I fit between negotiating the world, between being mainstream gay and being Cuban gay,” Blanco, who lives in the rural village of Bethel, Maine with his partner, told The New York Times.
When he was informed of his selection on Decemeber 12, Blanco “started writing it right there in my head.” Now having drafted three poems, it’s up to the Obama team to pick the one for the ceremony.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Blanco said. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”