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Richard Blanco - Distinguished Guest Author Reading

College Production

April 20, 2015 Sprint Theater

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Inaugural Poet to Speak at NWFSC Richard Blanco, Distinguished Guest Author, April 20, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Richard Blanco, the first Latino immigrant poet chosen to read at a Presidential inauguration and one of the most beloved and influential poets and storytellers writing today, will be the featured Distinguished Author at Northwest Florida State College’s annual NWFSC Reads on April 20, 2015, at 7:00 p.m.

Blanco will present readings from his works in the Sprint Theater at the college’s Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus, at 100 College Boulevard. The event is free of charge. All seating is on a first-come basis. Doors to the Sprint Theater will open at 6:45 p.m.

In addition, a welcome reception, the unveiling of the student art selected for the cover of Blackwater Review, announcement of award winners, and student readings will be held from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. in the adjoining Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries. The public is welcome and invited to attend all events in the Art Galleries and the following Richard Blanco reading in the Sprint Theater. All the evening’s events are free of charge and are part of a week- long emphasis on literary topics, NWFSC Reads, which is sponsored annually by the college’s English Department.

The negotiation of cultural identity and universal themes of place and belonging characterize Blanco’s three collections of poetry: City of a Hundred Fires, awarded the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Directions to The Beach of the Dead, recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and Looking for The Gulf Motel, winner of the Patterson Poetry Prize, a Maine Literary Poetry Award, and the Thom Gunn Award. His books also include One Today (2013), Boston Strong (2013), and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013).

His poems have also appeared in The Best American Poetry 2000, Great American Prose Poems; and he has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as major media from the U.S. and around the world, including CNN, Telemundo, AC360, BBC, Univision, and PBS. Blanco is a Fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. A builder of cities as well as poems, he is also a professional civil engineer currently living in Bethel, Maine.

Selected by President Obama to be the fifth inaugural poet in history, Richard Blanco followed in the footsteps of Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams and Elizabeth Alexander. He read his inaugural poem, “One Today” on January 21, 2013, becoming the youngest, first Latino, first immigrant, and openly gay writer to hold the honor.

As an historic inaugural poet, public speaker, teacher, and memoirist, Blanco has traveled the world, inviting audiences to reconnect to the heart of the human experience and all of its beautiful diversity. Through the power of his words and presence, Blanco taps into our unspoken dreams, hopes, and frustrations. He captures the human spirit and condition, in all of its complexities, opening up our minds and encouraging us to see beyond our differences to share in the universal experience of our humanity.

Blanco is noted for appealing to audiences everywhere and inspiring a new way to think and feel about the poetry of our day, making it an accessible, inclusive, and transformative part of our everyday lives. Born in Madrid in 1968, Blanco immigrated as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to the United States. He was raised and educated in Miami, earning a B.S. in civil engineering and a M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University.

Blanco has been a practicing engineer, writer, and poet since 1991. He has traveled extensively in his adult life, living and working throughout Europe and South America. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Writer’s Center and Central Connecticut State University. Blanco currently resides in the tranquil mountains of Bethel, Maine.

Blanco has written and performed occasional poems for such organizations as Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards, and the Fragrance Awards. In May of 2013, Blanco wrote Boston Strong, an occasional poem he performed at the TD Boston Garden Benefit Concert and at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Following his performances, he released a limited edition Boston Strong chapbook, with all proceeds going to those most affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

Blanco continues to write and perform for audiences around the world. In addition to his occasional poetry and performances, he is currently working on a full-length memoir and is collaborating with renowned illustrator Dav Pilkey on a children’s book.

In his book For All of Us, One Today, Blanco explains how his experience as inaugural poet confirms poetry as a unifying and relevant force in our country; he shares how writing the inaugural poems and reading before a world audience on January 21st, 2013, transformed his understanding about what it means to be American, especially in light of his immigrant family’s struggles and sacrifices.

Writing of his childhood in a Miami suburb among a close-knit neighborhood of Cuban exiles, Blanco recalls hearing stories about family members left behind, whose faces were seen only in old black and white photographs. Simultaneously, he writes, he was absorbing idealized versions of American families through television reruns of shows like The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver.

His community, he reflects, “felt like a kind of cultural purgatory, a waiting place caught between the real-imagined America and the real-imagined Cuba, both stories part of one story that I wouldn’t weave together until living through my experiences as an inaugural poet.”

Sitting on the inaugural stage with his mother, Blanco recalls his intense sense of reverence at being part of the hundreds of thousands who had gathered to celebrate the founding ideals of America. “I turn to my mother and whisper,” he writes, “’Mama, I think we’re finally an americanos.’”

Ultimately, after the life-changing experience of reading One Today and being moved by the passionate responses of so many thousands, Blanco commits to keep connecting Americans, especially young people, with poetry’s ability to affect and enhance lives. “I had left Maine with a single poem to offer my country that I didn’t quite understand,” he reflects. “I returned as an American, driving back home through the pines of Maine under one moon, but with a thousand more stars and poems for me—for all of us—to write, for us.”

See Richard Blanco's website for more on this Distinguished Guest Author who will appear at NWF State College on April 20, 2015 to read his works.

The Buzz About the Author- Selected Reviews and Press

“I was deeply moved by Richard Blanco's reading of his inaugural poem--a timely and elegant tribute to the great diversity of American experience. And now comes this fine meditation on his experience of coming to poetry, of making the poem and the months surrounding its making--a testament to the strength and significance of poetry in American culture, something not always seen or easily measured. Today Is For All of Us, One Today is a necessary intervention into the ongoing conversation about the role of poetry in public life.” --Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate

“The process of writing and then delivering one of the most important occasional poems in our history led Blanco to a new understanding of himself and our country, and gave him hope for poetry in America. May poets, teachers, and readers heed Blanco’s call for more poetry in our nation’s classrooms and for poetry’s greater presence on the American cultural landscape.” --Jennifer Benka, Executive Director, American Academy of Poets

“Like the inaugural poem he wrote for our country, Richard Blanco’s moving story speaks to the amazing American spirit in all of us who keep dreaming, persevering, exploring, and creating.” --Gloria Estefan, American singer, songwriter, actress and entrepreneur

“Richard’s voice reaches the heart of the American experience in all its beautiful diversity. It crosses oceans of differences among us and shows us what binds us together and what drives us apart. As the president of a host of charter high schools that serve mostly minority and disenfranchised marginalized students, Blanco’s words are required reading.” --Frank Biden, Brother of Vice President Joe Biden, President of Maverick Schools

“Blanco’s journey to the Inaugural platform is only the most recent leg in a lifelong quest by a sensitive and heroic immigrant to reach a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American. Throughout Blanco’s quest for national identity, he is confident that poetry serves as his own best guide, just as he hopes all Americans will rediscover the poetic imagination for its singular ability to elucidate America’s soul.” -- Roger W. Bowen, Director, Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows

“With an engineer’s eye for design and a poet’s ear for truth, Blanco tells the fascinating story of one poem’s journey from a kitchen table in a small-town Maine to the grand stage of a president’s inauguration. Blanco's memoir is a powerful reminder that we all pursue our diverse dreams and aspirations under one sky, sharing ‘One Today.’” -- Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)

“Richard’s voice truly is one voice. Reading his succulent and resonant words, the soft lilt of his warm Latin accent eventually melts into one’s own voice. Blanco's ubiquitous perspective and precise words pull at the memories, joys, traumas, triumphs, secrets and successes we all share as human beings, no matter who we are.” --Aranka Matolcsy, Executive Director, Mahoosuc Arts Council

“Richard takes us into his realm of authenticity with his use of imagery and language. This book recounts an immigrant family’s struggles and their resilience, a young man’s search for self and country, a glimpse at Cuban culture, and the power of the poem; all bits of a treasure.” --Marilyn Moss-Rockefeller, Author, Former President and CEO Moss, Inc.

“In a testament to the beauty of the American spirit, Richard Blanco recounts his inspiring journey – from the traditions of his childhood to the magic of an historic presidential inauguration. Through the lens of this one man’s amazing personal journey, we are transfixed by another uniquely American story.” --Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

“Richard’s story is at once deeply personal and uniquely, universally American. The specifics of our lives may not be the same, but we all share a relationship with a country that is an ongoing work in progress, and as Richard elegantly reveals through his experiences, what we do defines that work for those who follow. America shapes the people within her, and in return we shape America. This is a portrait of a nation and its people, each working to make the other better.” --Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union