Richard Blanco is living the dream. The American dream, that is.
An immigrant from Spain and son of Cuban exiles, Blanco began his career as a poet in Miami, the city where he was raised. Now, President Barack Obama has chosen him as the poet for his inauguration this month, putting the local-bred talent in the same category as Robert Frost. He'll be the youngest poet, and the first Latino, to read at an American inauguration.
Blanco was "made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States," according to his website. Having been conceived before his parents arrived to Madrid as exiles, Blanco's family moved to Miami, where he was raised, educated, and began his career as a poet. He earned both an engineering degree and master's degree in creative writing from Florida International University.
Themes of Cuban and immigrant identity thread through his work, particularly in his first collections of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires and Directions to the Beach of the Dead. And Blanco sees elements of his family's experience in President Obama's life story. "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 told the New York Times. "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."
Blanco now lives in Maine, but his upbringing was pure Miami. The Times describes the poet's abuela as "a looming, powerful influence" in his life, a "world dominated by food and family" where everybody ate pork on Thanksgiving.
That local influence should also shine in Blanco's contribution to President Obama's inauguration. The poet, who found out about Obama's decision in December, is working on three separate pieces for the occasion; the president's team will select one of them for the big show.
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"The challenge is how to be me in the poem," he told the Times, "to have a voice that's still intimate but yet can encompass a multitude of what America is."
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.