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Richard Blanco, 5th inaugural poet of U.S., visits Emerson

BlancoEmerson students received some sound advice on February 4 from one of poetry’s most accomplished individuals. Richard Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, paid the College a visit for a reading of his work and a discussion with students. The event is one of three hosted by the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department (WLP) as part of its Reading Series.

Blanco, a poet and an engineer, describes himself as “made in Cuba, put together in Spain, and imported to America.” His work reflects his infatuation with finding a home and expressing his identity as a gay Cuban man living in the United States. He has received many accolades for his work, and has been praised by prominent literary voices such as Maya Angelou and Sandra Cisneros. 

“He’s brilliant and profound,” said Kim McLarin, associate professor of WLP and host of the Reading Series. “He’s one of the most foremost poets in the country, and I’m excited that he is here to talk to our student writers.”

The first poem he read, “America,” was also the first assignment he received as a poet. The poem is about what Blanco says was his own America. His family, being one of immigrants, had different customs than those of the typical American family. For instance, they ate pork instead of turkey on Thanksgiving. The poem was nostalgic but also a point of coincidence for Blanco.


Poet Richard Blanco performed a reading of his work at Emerson's Bordy Theater on Tuesday, February 4. (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)

“It’s funny because Barack Obama gave me the same assignment [for the Inauguration] 25 years later,” Blanco said.

After the discussion, Blanco took time to answer questions and sign copies of his books for students. One young writer asked for his advice in a situation where an initial idea goes in an unplanned direction.

“Just keep writing, and the original idea will come through,” he said.

The next Reading Series guest is Roxane Gay, who will be at Emerson on Thursday, March 19. 

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