Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Visits Yale

Examining American Identity.

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With Poet Elizabeth Alexander and Stephen Pitti, master of Ezra Stiles College at Yale University.
Photo:Diane Orson
Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco
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Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco

Poet Richard Blanco, President Obama's 2nd inaugural poet, was in New Haven Tuesday. He spoke at an intimate gathering at Yale University. 

"One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes…"

Richard Blanco made history last month when he read his poem “One Today”. He’s the first Hispanic, openly gay and youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration.

"One light. Waking up rooftops. Under each one, a story.. "

Blanco told a bit of his story Tuesday to a warm and receptive crowd at Yale. 

He read several of his own poems including One Today, and spoke with Elizabeth Alexander, President Obama’s first inaugural poet and a professor at the university. 

Blanco says he writes, in part, to record emotions as historical documents, and believes every inauguration should have an inaugural poem.  

"...because it takes a snapshot emotionally of where the country is, at least every four years."

Blanco, a Cuban-American, worked as a civil engineer before devoting himself to poetry.

His writing centers around both a very personal and very expansive examination of American identity. And though he says he’d always held the country up to the ideals he’d learned in grade school, until reading at the inauguration, he’d never fully embraced America.

"And I realized that those very ideals that I thought were just things in picture books and fancy words. They’re still there somehow."

"Hope. A new constellation. Waiting for us to map it. Waiting for us to name it. Together."

Richard Blanco is America’s fifth inaugural poet. Previous poets also include Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.  

For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.