Blanco, author of Looking for the Gulf Motel, is a wellspring of demographics: he’s an under-50 gay Hispanic born in Spain, later raised in Miami and now living with his partner in a rural Maine town at the foot of the White Mountains. He’s also a civil engineer, teacher and award-winning poet who waxes often of home and family. “Richard Blanco is a good choice,” says English Professor Grace Bauer, who specializes in contemporary poetry at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Blanco’s poems speak eloquently of the immigrant experience, which is, of course, the American experience.” Blanco will be the first Hispanic, first LGBT, and youngest Inaugural poet ever.
Though Blanco will craft a work especially for the occasion, here is a taste of his style from his first published poem, “América,” a piece that highlights the complexities of identity in the big ol’ melting pot that we call the U.S. of A.:
I spoke English; my parent’s didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marsha;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either–
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.