The South Florida engineer who became the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration — not to mention the first openly gay, as well as the first Hispanic to do so — is glad to be back in the city where his historic journey began.
"I really, really missed Miami," said Richard Blanco, 45, during a phone interview on Monday from his mother's Miami home. He lives in Bethel, Maine, with his partner. "There's so much love that came out of the city. I couldn't wait to get down here and do something with the community, which I'm so connected with obviously since I was four years old. It's where I became a writer and still what I write about in many of my books."
Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles who was born in Spain and brought to South Florida as a small child, will recite his poems at a free event at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami on Friday. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m., has been dubbed a "homecoming."
"Miami's such a great audience for me because I think they'll obviously get a lot of my work in ways that other people might not get as deeply," he said, "some of the things that we Miamians experience and deal with — from eating pork on Thanksgiving to other nuances — that wonderful and unique life that is Miami."
At the event, he also will read his inaugural poem, "One Today," which he said will be published as a commemorative booklet by the University of Pittsburgh Press in the next few weeks.
"One Today," a poem about the shared experience of Americans across the country, was one of three Blanco had to write before the swearing-in ceremony. The poem was then approved by the inaugural committee, though, for Blanco, it took more than one draft for the poem to feel right.
"In the first draft, 'One Today' wasn't exactly my favorite," Blanco said. "But after I worked on it, it really became my favorite poem, for more reasons than one. It was the most appropriate for the moment. It had the right tone and embrace and exclusivity that I thought the occasion demanded and called for."
The other two poems will not wither away in one of the poet's desk drawers, as Blanco is working on a collection of all inaugural poems to be published with Spanish-language translations and a preface.
"They're very different from the one that I read, and we wanted to share those at some point in book form," he said.
His future plans include writing poems about his parents and attending the O, Miami Poetry Festival, a month-long celebration in April.
In the meantime, he can't wait to hear what the president thought about his poem.
"A White House contact told me they were sending some kind of thank you note or letter," Blanco said. "I'm looking forward to that, because I really am curious to know what [Obama] thought of the poem, you know, right from him."
For tickets, visit arshtcenter.org or call 305-949-6722. Though the event is free, reservations are required for tickets.