Two inaugural poets on one stage: Richard Blanco and Elizabeth Alexander at Yale

Richard Blanco, who gained national renown when he read his poem “One Today” at President Obama’s second inauguration, will be at Yale on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for a tea hosted by Stephen Pitti, master of Ezra Stiles College.

The event, which is Blanco’s first public appearance since the inauguration on Jan. 21, will take place in the Ezra Stiles College master’s house, 19 Tower Pkwy., at 4 p.m. Seating is extremely limited, but the event will also be live-streamed on the Yale YouTube channel. Limited overflow seating for those without their own computers will be available in Rm. 119 of the McDougal Graduate Student Center, Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York St. 

Blanco will give a public reading of his work and join in conversation with the President’s first inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, who is a professor and chair of the African American studies department at Yale. 

“One Today” has earned critical acclaim: “In about 550 words, Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem created a metaphorical country and took it through the journey of a metaphorical day … ‘One Today’ was an intimate and sweeping celebration of our shared, single identity as a people,” remarked Hector Tobar in the Los Angeles Times.

Born to Cuban refugee parents in Madrid, Spain, Blanco grew up in Miami, where he received a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering as well as an M.F.A. — some years later — in creative writing from Florida International University.

His first book of poetry, “City of a Hundred Fires” (1998), delving into his journey of cultural identity as a Cuban- American, received the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett National Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. His second book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” won the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center for its continued exploration of the universal themes of cultural identity and homecoming. A third collection, “Looking for The Gulf Motel,” was published in 2012.

His poems have appeared in top literary journals including, The Nation, the New Republic, Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly Review, and TriQuarterly Review; and in several anthologies including “The Best American Poetry,” “Great American Prose Poems,” “New American Poets: The Bread Loaf Anthology,” and “American Poetry: The Next Generation.” He has been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” and has appeared at various conferences and venues including the Miami Book Fair, the Southern Writers Conference, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Dodge Poetry Festival, and the Poetry Center at Smith College.

He is the recipient of two Florida artist fellowships, a residency fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the John Ciardi fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Blanco is a professional civil engineer and has also taught writing at various schools, including Central Connecticut State University, Georgetown University, and American University.

Currently, he lives in Bethel, Maine.

This event is co-sponsored by Ezra Stiles College; the program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; the African American Studies department; and the Office of Yale University President Richard C. Levin.

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