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Richard Blanco on the State of Poetry in the U.S. at Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times featured “inauguration poet,” Richard Blanco, for its “Sunday Conversation” this past weekend. Blanco spoke with the Times’s Irene Lacher on the occasion of the publication of his new book, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey.
So how does one go about writing an inaugural poem?
When I got the call, I was comfortable with the idea of always trying to define for myself what America is and what my place is in it, but the challenge of the inaugural poem is that it had to be something larger. The real challenge was that I had to write three poems in three weeks [so the White House could pick one it preferred] that had that Whitman-esque, broader reach, a poem that I knew millions and millions were going to hear and read. And yet at the same time it had to be intimate because I wanted it to be true to my voice and I do write from a very soulful place.
So as the poem developed, the idea of nature set in — which was “one sun rose on one ground” — and the idea of nature is such a powerful symbol, has that grandness to it. It’s so transcendent across cultures, across borders. So I then pursued the intimate details of the extraordinary in some of the ordinary things of our day. And then I managed also to sneak in a personal reference to my mother and my father and my history as an immigrant and also to place myself in the poem. I am one of those people in “One Today.” I didn’t want it to sound like this poetic voice that was pontificating about who we should be or who we are.
Read more of the Los Angeles Times’s conversation with Richard Blanco here.