Inaugural poet Richard Blanco visits AP Lit class

Courtesy of Mrs. Bobbie Serensky

Courtesy of Mrs. Bobbie Serensky

On December 20, 2022, Richard Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet of the US for Barack Obama, spoke with CFHS’s AP Literature class via zoom. The class studied his poems as part of their poetry unit during the semester, so as their midterm, they got to hear directly from the writer. 

“Our visit with Richard Blanco opened my eyes to the interpretation of poetry,” said senior Phoebe Gleeson. “He told us that ‘poems don’t mean, they provoke,’ which created a sense of freedom when it comes to literary perception in class.”

Blanco spoke to the class specifically about the poems they had studied, and read them aloud. The students also asked Blanco their own personal questions about his work. They had read, analyzed, and written essays about many of his poems in class, so the opportunity to speak directly with Blanco as part of their midterm excited the students.
The acclaimed Richard Blanco is a Cuban American poet who grew up in Miami, Florida. His cultural identity became the topic of many of his poems, as he felt a lack of belonging to both countries growing up. He published his first book of poetry “City of a Hundred Fires” in 1998. He went on to read his poem “One Today” at President Obama’s second inauguration, marking the fifth time a poem was read at the ceremony.

Among his other accomplishments include publishing multiple collections of poetry, including one called, “How to Love a Country.” His poems typically center around ideas such as identity, home, and equality. 

“Every poet is writing one poem throughout their life,” Blanco said while speaking to the students. He writes about global issues, calling attention to racism and homophobia in America in poems about the last known lynching in the US, and the shooting at a gay club in Denver. 

Blanco’s ability to eloquently call attention to global issues is appreciated by senior Andrew Nachtwey. He took with him “an experience that will forever resonate due to Blanco’s understanding and recognition of important issues that apply to most, if not all, Americans.” 

Blanco’s conversation with AP Lit students sparked a deeper appreciation for his work and poetry in general. Senior Abi Johnson “loved being able to talk to Mr. Blanco,” she said. “He was very welcoming and helped me change my approach on poetry after hearing about his writing process.”