MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In roughly two weeks, Richard Blanco will read a poem before millions worldwide at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. When he does, he will be making history three times over: as the youngest poet, who is openly gay, and a Cuban-American.

The artist has spent his career writing primarily about discovering who you are. In a 2004 reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival he explained, “Poetry for me has always been, not so much finding an answer, but just asking a good question. For me that question has been and continues to be what is home. I think it’s a universal question.”

Before he was a poet, Blanco was actually an engineer. Some of his projects included City Hall in South Miami. Eventually he realized he wanted another creative outlet for himself and so he went to Florida International University to study poetry.

“It’s not that unusual because when you look at the renaissance probably one of the most respected artist, Leonardo, was an engineer, an architect, and an artist,” FIU professor and paint John Bailly CBS4.

Bailly was a fellow student at the time he met Blanco. They became life-long friends. In late 2005 they collaborated on a series of 40 works incorporating poetry and illustration.

During the creation of those works Bailly learned Blanco’s process is quite complex.

“He would send me one poem but there would be 10 different versions of that poem. And I’m not talking just line number one is line number 5 and vice-versa. It would be entirely rewritten 10 different ways,” Bailly recalled.

The process by which Blanco operates under could make this honor quite the challenge, or as Bailly puts it… a burden.

“He has to write three new poems for the inauguration. As an occasional poem that’s very difficult to write; especially with Richard’s process which is this construct, deconstruct, construct,” Bailly said.

The final product is expected to be quite moving. Bailly expects his friend to connect with all of us no matter where you come from.

“He speaks for us. When you read it; you then feel like Richard has a part of you in him,” Bailly said. “I know all of my students feel that and I think all of Miami will feel that as well.”

Blanco currently resides in Maine where he writes and teaches.


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