Inaugural Poet Robert Blanco at PSU April 17

 PLYMOUTH — The Eagle Pond Authors' Series at Plymouth State University will present a reading by Inaugural Poet Robert Blanco at 7 p.m. April 17 in the Smith Recital Hall at the Silver Center for the Arts. There is no charge for admission.

Richard Blanco quips on his website that he was "Made in Cuba, Assembled in Spain and Imported to the U.S.A." In fact his parents emigrated from Cuba to Madrid when his mother was seven months pregnant. Blanco was born in Madrid in February, 1968. Forty-five days later the family moved again, to New York City, and eventually settled in Florida, where he was raised and educated. Blanco earned a BS in Civil Engineering and an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University.

Driven by a curiosity to examine the essence of place and belonging, Blanco became an extensive traveler, exploring Spain, Italy, France, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, Washington DC, Connecticut and eventually to Bethel, Maine, where he now lives with partner Mark Neveu, a renowned research scientist.

Blanco's acclaimed first book, City of a Hundred Fires (1998) explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American and received the prestigious Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. His second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005) won the PEN American Beyond Margins Award for its continued exploration of the universal themes of place and homecoming. His third collection, Looking for The Gulf Motel (2012), won the Paterson Poetry Prize and Thom Gunn Award from the Publishing Triangle.

In 2013 Blanco made history as the first Latino, first openly gay man, first immigrant and youngest writer to hold the honor of being Inaugural Poet of the United States, when he was selected to create and read a poem for President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Jennifer Benka, executive director of the American Academy of Poets said the process of writing and then delivering "One Today," which she regards a 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. She said, "Many 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.

Following the inauguration, Blanco has continued connecting communities through occasional poetry. He has written and performed occasional poems for such organizations as Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards and the Fragrance Awards. In May 2013, Blanco wrote "Boston Strong," an occasional poem he performed at the post-Boston Marathon 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 bombings.

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's poems have appeared in countless literary journals and anthologies, including Best American Prose Poems and Ploughshares. Blanco is a professional civil engineer and has also taught.

Free tickets for the Eagle Pond Authors Series are available at the Silver Center Box Office (603) 535-2787 or (800) 779-3869, and are highly recommended. The series is presented with generous support from the Follett Higher Education Group (PSU Bookstore).

Now in its 16th year, the Eagle Pond Authors' Series is a tribute to Donald Hall, one of the nation's most beloved poets and authors. Hall remains the heart and soul of this series and is instrumental in bringing nationally and internationally revered poets to the PSU campus. Hall will be on hand to introduce Blanco and both will stay after the reading for an author's reception and book signing.



Robert Blanco (Courtesy photo)