Obama’s inaugural poet is OLLU’s spring 2013 visiting writer

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2013

President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony poet, Richard Blanco, is also OLLU’s spring 2013 visiting writer. He will teach a hand full of classes and give a public reading April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Blue Room. The event is part of OLLU's annual Literary Festival that runs April 2-9. 


Blanco was tasked with creating an original poem that he read at the public inauguration ceremony on Jan. 21. He was the fifth inaugural poet, joining such notable poets as Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. He is also the first Latino and the youngest person to serve in the role.


The son of Cuban exiles, Blanco grew up in Miami where he attended Florida International University (FIU) and received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. After working for a while, his quest to find out more about his own identity and culture led him to begin writing. He went back to school for a master’s degree in fine arts and creative writing, also from FlU.


His first collection, “City of a Hundred Fires,” was published in 1997 and won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. The award brought about numerous teaching offers that Blanco decided to pursue while continuing his work as an engineer.


Blanco’s second book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” was published in 2005 and his most recent collection, “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” was published last year. He has also had work published in various literary journals and anthologies.


"It is an honor to have Richard Blanco in our second inauguration," Obama said in a statement. "His contributions to the fields of poetry and art have paved the way for future generations of writers. Richard's work is well-suited for an opening that will celebrate the strength and diversity of our great country."

Hayan Charara, OLLU associate professor of English, says that Blanco's close ties with San Antonio and many of the city's writers, such as Sandra Cisneros and Ito Romo, will make it easy for students to connect with him as a poet. "His poems embrace experiences that students will recognize immediately as their own. We are really excited to have him coming to the university."

OLLU thanks the Richard and Joyce Harris Sapience Foundation for sponsorship of Blanco as the spring 2013 visiting writer.