Obama’s Inauguration Poet to Read at Dartmouth

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As part of Dartmouth’s celebration of Latin@ Heritage Month, poet Richard Blanco will give a reading on October 3. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. in Filene Auditorium of Moore Hall.

Richard Blanco

Poet Richard Blanco read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. (Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

Blanco became the nation’s fifth inaugural poet when he read One Today at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on January 21, 2013.

The first Latino and first openly gay writer so honored, he joined Robert Frost, who read at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and Maya Angelou, who read at President Bill Clinton’s.

“Blanco’s poetry offers an intimate portrait of Latino and LGBT experiences,” says Associate Professor of Spanish Israel Reyes. “His visit highlights the great contributions that minority writers and artists are making to our national discourse.”

Blanco, whose memoir, “For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey,” will be published in November, will also conduct a creative writing workshop with students on Thursday.

Blanco’s visit marks the start of a series of visits by artists working in a wide range of creative formats—poetry, fiction, film, music—connecting with the diversity of geography, culture, and countries spanned by Dartmouth’s interdisciplinary program in the Department of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies (LALACS). Lisa Baldez, chair of the department, says she is “thrilled that such exciting artists who embody the connections across these regions are coming to campus to celebrate Latin@ Heritage Month.”

A Conversation With Richard Blanco

In advance of his visit, Richard Blanco spoke briefly with Dartmouth Now:

On being a poet and an engineer: I think of myself as a poster child for the liberal arts: No knowledge goes to waste. I was always writing as an engineer—reports and letters and proposals—that was part of falling in love with language. And all along, I’ve continued as a professional practicing civil engineer: I need a left-brain thing.

You’ve said, “Poetry is smarter than we are.” What do you mean? I’m always surprised how the process of writing makes you realize what you were really thinking, what your mind was already working on, unconsciously. Coming back to something I’d written years before and seeing, now, “Ah, so that’s what I meant.”

You have a new book out in November, a memoir with the inaugural poem One Today at its heart. The new book also talks about connection to place: growing up feeling dislocated culturally—feeling “both” and “neither,” Cuban and American. Miami was a tight-knit community: helping each other out, being surrounded by people who know you. That’s true about where I live now in Maine, as well; both those communities understand we’re all interconnected, all part of the whole. And that was part of the inaugural poem: showing the nation as a village, all contributing a piece, constituting a nation.

Adrian Randolph, the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History and associate dean of the arts and humanities, says, “While it is terrific to have such exciting visitors on campus, their appearances are part of a deeper and growing presence of Latina/o culture at Dartmouth—in our curriculum, our student body, and our faculty.”

Appearing after Blanco in the series are Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz, the Haitian musical group Raram de NY, Cuban poet Wendy Guerra, and Cuban filmmaker Marilyn Solaya.

  • Raram de NY will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9, in Collis Common Ground.
  • Guerra will present a bilingual poetry reading at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15, in the Treasure Room at Baker Library, as well as a public lecture at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, in Haldeman 041. “Wendy Guerra may be somewhat of a mystery in her native Cuba,” says Elizabeth Polli, Dartmouth’s Spanish language program director, “as her work has been published strictly outside of the island, but she is a well-known figure in literary circles across the globe. This will be her first extensive U.S. engagement and represents an opportunity for Dartmouth students to dialogue with a dynamic writer who resides in a country quite beyond the boundaries of our reach.”
  • MacArthur “genius grant” winner Junot Diaz is the author of the Pulitzer prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008) and the short story collection This Is How You Lose Her (2012), a finalist for the National Book Award. He speaks at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 18, in Filene Auditorium.
  • Cuban filmmaker Marilyn Solaya will screen her documentary In the Wrong Body at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 24, in 3 Carpenter Hall. The film “tells the story of Mavi Susel, the first person in Cuba to undergo sex reassignment surgery,” says Giavanna Munafo, a lecturer in women’s and gender studies. The screening, she notes, is also part of Dartmouth’s LGBTQ History Month celebrations, and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
  • In addition, Latin@ Heritage Month includes two events organized and presented by Dartmouth students, says Amaris De La Rosa-Morena, student intern in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. The documentary The Dream is Now shows at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, in Rockefeller 01. And October 19 marks the 16th celebration of Dartmouth’s Noche Dorada, a fundraiser, celebration, and educational event presented by Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Psi Chapter. This year’s keynote speaker is Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.