Sunday, January 20, 2013

Letras Latinas Salutes Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco, the youngest, and first gay, and first Latino poet (and the first and only inaugural poet to have been born outside the United States) to be commissioned to write and read a poem at a Presidential Inauguration, should by now need no introduction.
The long-time former resident of Miami (and current resident of Maine) has for years labored in what is for many—and this is no secret—the relatively obscure world of poetry. In a vocation where most artists contend with rejection, competition and neglect, Blanco has been able to find inspiration and pleasure in a craft that has earned him this honor. What an incredible feeling it must be to be able to connect a poem with so many people, to bring them together and celebrate poetry’s special sensibility.
And speaking of celebrating, we at Letras Latinas join in saluting our inaugural poet by highlighting some of the ways in which we have been nurtured by our numerous collaborations with him:

2006:  Richard Blanco, reads in PALABRA PURA’s inaugural season
Richard Blanco was among the first poets to grace a PALABRA PURA stage, back when the bilingual series launched with a mission to “showcase emerging voices from the country and Chicago.” PALABRA PURA, which is a Chicago-based reading series co-founded by the Guild Complex and Letras Latinas, and is now in its eighth year. Below is a roster of the names of poets from the first few seasons who, through their participation, have become what we like to call PALABRA PURA alums, Richard Blanco among them….
          [Continue reading.]

March, 2007: Richard Blanco visits Notre Dame
Richard Blanco’s visit to Notre Dame consisted of an evening reading (on March 30th, 2007 with Naomi Ayala) at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Philbin Studio Theater and a morning of taping for what would become Richard Blanco’s contribution to the Letras Latinas Oral History Project (apologies for the less than optimal audio due to one mic malfunction!). Click below for the video interview in which Blanco chronicles his parent’s journey of exile from Cuba to Madrid, where he was born, and eventually to Miami, Florida where Blanco grew up as (and this is no metaphor) a “citizen of no country.” And of his search for—through writing—a “place in the imagination” that can replace the “mythic homeland” which—for those who have experienced exile or migration—has in a very physical sense ceased to exist.

February, 2008: Richard Blanco shows his support

standing: Francisco Aragón, Molly Charland, Richard Blanco
sitting: Sheryl Luna, Kevin A. González, Eduardo C. Corral
In February of 2008 Richard Blanco, Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize winner and 2009 Palabra Pura alum Emma Trelles, and fellow 2009 Palabra Pura alum Rita Maria Martínez drove up to Palm Beach from Miami to offer their generous support at the launch of “The Wind Shifts: Latino Poetry ON TOUR,” which celebrated the now six-year old anthology which brought together for the first time works by a newer generation of Latina and Latino poets in the 21st century.  The tour kicked-off with Eduardo C. Coral, Kevin A. González and Sheryl Luna and provided not just an opportunity for the poets to share their work with the public but also for the poets in the anthology to meet and interact with one another, in a sense to bring people together. Below you will find a gallery of the event.
          [Palm Beach Photo Gallery.]
September, 2008: The Wind Shifts: Latino Poetry ON TOUR continues, Blanco reads in Seattle

Francisco Aragón, Steven Cordova, María Meléndez, Richard Blanco
Following the launch in Palm Beach, the tour continued to the Twin Cities, and then touched down in Seattle, WA with Richard Blanco, Maria Melendez, Steven Cordova and CantoMundo co-founder Deborah Parédez. In addition to bringing the anthology to different audiences, this stop in the tour proved to be no different from the previous ones in that it continued to bring together, at times for the first time, these poets who were then emerging as their own particular generation of Latino/a poets. Below is another gallery of this memorable event.
             [Seattle photo gallery.]

2011: Richard Blanco shows his generosity
Richard Blanco acquires a print by Malaquias Montoya and thus joins the gradually expanding circle of poets and writers whose generosity towards Letras Latinas have contributed to the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize Initiative, which seeks to assist with the long-term sustainability of Latino poetry’s national first book prize. Proceeds also go towards the publication of a posthumous book of poems by Andrés Montoya, edited and introduced by Chicano writer, Daniel Chacón, and will also help underwrite a symposium on Andrés upon the publication of the aforementioned book. Richard did not hesitate to offer his support for A.M.P.P.I., for which Letras Latinas is grateful.

July, 2012:  Richard Blanco returns to PALABRA PURA

Held at the Puerto Rican restaurant La Bruquena in Chicago, PALABRA PURA—then in its seventh season—was once more graced by Richard’s presence for a reading, alongside Chicago-based poet and journalist Erika L. Sánchez. For a short, two minute video of that fun and memorable reading click here. For a gallery of that evening see below.
            [Palabra Pura photo gallery]

 September, 2012:  Kansas City hosts Richard Blanco
In a reading co-sponsored by Bernardin Haskell Funds, the UMKC Latina/Latino Studies Program, the UMKC Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Letras Latinas, The Latino Writers Collective, the Riverfront Reading Series, and The Writers Place in Kansas City, Richard Blanco was joined by fiction writer Fred Arroyo for a reading in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. For a re-cap and gallery of the event see below.
             [Kansas City photo gallery]

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