Poet Richard Blanco to speak in Winthrop

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WINTHROP –The Bailey Public Library will host Richard Blanco on Aug. 25, at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and must be picked up in person at the Bailey Library, which is located at 39 Bowdoin St. in Winthrop.

Blanco is best known for writing and reciting the inaugural poem “One Today” for President Obama’s 2013 inauguration. Due to overwhelming ticket demand, the library will host the event at the Winthrop Performing Arts Center located at 211 Rambler Road in Winthrop. The event marks the fifth anniversary of the library’s Winthrop Lakes Region Forum, which features writers, artists, historians, and community leaders speaking at the downtown library each month.

Two years ago, Blanco received a rare honor: an invitation from the Obama administration to serve as inaugural poet at the president’s 2013 inauguration. The administration chose “One Today,” in which Blanco concentrated on the commonalities among Americans. As inaugural poet, Blanco followed in the footsteps of American poetry giants such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. The choice of Blanco as inaugural poet was full of firsts: 44 at the time, he was the youngest of the five poets, as well as the first Latino and openly gay man ever to serve in that capacity.

In an interview with Terry Gross for NPR, Blanco described how writing the inauguration poem differed from his typical writing process. “One of the hardest challenges of the poem itself overall was how to, at once, put myself in there, but realizing that this poem isn’t about me, it’s about our country.” Blanco’s newest book “The Prince of los Cocuyos” is a coming-of-age memoir about growing up as the child of Cuban immigrants in Miami, and his family’s struggle to retain its cultural heritage, while cultivating its American identity. Oprah Magazine described the book as “vibrant” and “exhilarating.”

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Born in Madrid to exiled Cuban parents, Blanco and his family moved to New York City while he was an infant and then to Miami, where he grew up in a close-knit Cuban community. Four years later, the family settled in Westchester, a Miami suburb west of Little Havana, on what was then the western fringe of the city. “Westchester felt like a kind of cultural purgatory, a waiting place caught between the real-imagined America and the real-imagined Cuba,” he writes in his 2013 memoir “For All of Us, One Today.”

Blanco has become an award-winning and renowned public speaker since his inaugural reading, speaking to the U.S. Federal Reserve and Department of Agriculture, and has been chosen as keynote speaker at numerous art summits, literary events, and universities across the country. Blanco, who received honorary degrees from Colby College and the Maine College of Art in 2014, now lives with his partner in Bethel, Maine.

Copies of Blanco’s books will be available for sale through Books-A-Million at the event. FMI or to reserve tickets please call the library at: 207-377-8673.

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