Page 3 Profile: Richard Blanco, poet - i - The Independent
Today's letter from the Editor
Today's Matrices
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Page 3 Profile: Richard Blanco, poet

Never heard of him. Should I be ashamed?

While it's not too difficult to reel off the names of a handful of the most famous English-language poets – think Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney – most toil in largely unrewarded obscurity. So although Richard Blanco, a 44-year-old gay writer, has won prestigious awards for his work, he is hardly a household name on either side of the Atlantic. But that's set to change. Blanco has been plucked by President Barack Obama to read a poem at his inauguration later this month. It's an honour that was previously enjoyed by Robert Frost (for John Kennedy in 1961) and Maya Angelou (for Bill Clinton, in 1993 – it's a Democrat tradition).

Why Blanco?

Mr Obama said: "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." An inaugural committee spokeswoman added that Blanco's poems, which express a yearning for his Cuban homeland, are "rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American". Blanco came from a hard-working immigrant family and he was told he had to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. He suppressed his creativity and homosexuality for the approval of his grandmother. Until recently he supported himself with a job in civil engineering.

So he's found his vocation?

His selection (which he found out about last month and had to keep secret from his mother) is only the first step. Blanco can't simply pluck something from one of his collections, such as Directions to the Beach of the Dead. He must write three "occasional" poems (that is, poems written for a special event, rather than just dashing something off) before the Obama camp chooses whichever they feel is the most appropriate. But he appeared to relish the challenge, telling The New York Times: "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. 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."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week