Openly Gay Cuban Poet Richard Blanco To Read At Obama Inauguration

richard-blancoPerhaps 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.”

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  • Wilberforce

    I’m guessing that, like most modern poets, he has zero talent, but writes in vague, self-involved, and unrelated fragments.
    But he looks like a million bucks, and that’s what’s important.

  • TrekBear

    @WilberFARCE: Unless you’ve read his poetry, you;re not qualified to judge his ability.

  • krandall

    @Wilberforce: Talk about self-involved and unrelated. Nothing like judging a person without having met him and judging a writer without having read his work. Would you like me to start making some assumptions about you?

  • bmwblonde

    Well “Wilberforce,” how about posting here a list of the
    “modern poets” that you HAVE read. No fair using “Modern
    Poets for Dummies,” either. I couldn’t agree more with
    TrekBear and Krandall about you. Sounds like a little
    faggoty jealousy attack — rather than being thrilled
    that a gay artist has been so honored by another “outsider”
    person, President Obama. Get a grip. Get a life.

  • krandall

    @bmwblonde: Thanks bmwblonde. You know what? I have a feeling that Dilbertface (sic) does this all the time on lots of sites just to get the attention we’ve already wasted on him. If only he would use that energy in therapy, he might actually become a happy person.

  • Wilberforce

    I’ve read him, and it’s the usual, no talent, free verse. Excuse me. But I just don’t care for identity politics culture, where people are promoted not from merit, but because they’re minority or are Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.
    I think it’s a big reason the left is so weak. Corporations hire and promote at least partly by merit, which means they get better people. We promote for sentimental identity politics, which means we get incompetence.

  • Wilberforce

    @TrekBear: I didn’t have to read him before writing, because identity culture is too predictable. I read him after, though, and the suspicion was confirmed.

  • Wilberforce

    @krandall: My guess was correct. Most of his poetry is about himself. Typical.

  • bmwblonde

    Well Wilberforce, I notice you haven’t listed the
    modern poets that you have read. You are a typical
    deluded person mired in “concepts” (like any kneejerk
    “belief-systems”), such as:
    Business is Good, government is bad
    The Right is about “liberty,” the Left is about “give-aways”
    People like you are so blinded by your “concepts” that you
    couldn’t see reality if it fell on you.
    By the way, I’ve studied poetry for years with amazing
    professors, and alsoAM a poet — and your moron “concepts”
    about poetry are also stupidly black-and-white, ignorant
    and laughable. Some classical-form poetry is terrific,
    some sucks. Some free verse sucks, some is stunningly
    brilliant, long lasting art. More of your pathetic,
    rigid stuck concepts. Why don’t you just go away and
    enjoy your self-righteousness and stop wasting the
    time of normal and free people? I.e., FLAKE OFF.

  • Aidan8

    Although I don’t know this poet’s work, it’s nice to see someone young, Latino, and gay chosen for this ceremonial occasion. I would only add that this choice is unfortunately belittled by the fact that Obama has chosen an anti-gay evangelical “pastor” to deliver the benediction. So… I guess it’s “let’s listen to the gay guy who can do art/poetry and then we’ll finish up with the evangelical anti-gay freak who appeals to the christian-right” Feels like more pandering to me.

  • Sansacro

    @Wilberforce: Yawn.

  • balehead

    Why is there so much online bullying on Queerty?…it’s getting out of control….

  • tjr101

    I suppose Wilberforce and the Log Cabiners will take out a full page ad attacking this “zero-talented and vague” poet to score “points” against Obama and the left by any means. LOL

  • Eric Auerbach

    He’s not Cuban. He’s Cuban-American. Big difference.

  • JohnQPublic

    I thought the cheapest shot in this whole thread was the way the article introduced the choice of a gay poet as resulting from “feeling guilty for the Hagel nomination.” Cheap, cheap, cheap.

  • krandall

    I used to teach college in Washington D.C. and I used to sound a lot like Wilberforce: self-important, sure everyone else is wrong if they disagree with me, and closed to anything that didn’t fit my definitions. I don’t know how my students could stand me. As a writer who has won many awards, including an award for poetry, I would just like to suggest that we all try to be open to things that are new, different, and that perhaps our knee-jerk reaction dismisses.

    And let’s not kid ourselves, in serious literature there is a bit of the author in everything one writes. I’m sorry for Wilberforce, actually. With these close-minded opinions his world must be very small indeed. I would never tell him not to like what he likes, but I would also ask him not to refuse me the same courtesy. And if we want to do some textual analysis, I would be more than willing to defend the work of Blanco.

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