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Richard Blanco in Portland


Poet Richard Blanco is back home in Bethel, Maine after reading his poem "One Today" at President Barack Obama's second inauguration in Washington, D.C.  On Wednesday, Mainers delighted in the news that the poet will give a free, open-to-the-public reading at Merrill Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26th.

In one of Blanco's widely-used bios, he likes to say that he “was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the USA.” Blanco describes his work as "poetry of place, home, and identity." Fittingly, he was the first immigrant, the first Hispanic, and the first openly gay man to present a poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration.

In an interview with WCSH 6, Blanco contrasted his experience growing up in working class Miami with the community spirit he and his partner enjoy in Bethel, where Blanco sits on the town planning board and works as a civil engineer: "That sense that everyone is necessary in order to survive. Especially the winters in Maine, you all work together, and it's such a wonderful American ideal."

Blanco told the Press Herald that he rehearsed his inaugural poem outdoors in Bethel, in front of a snowman made by his nephews. Blanco will read that poem, "One Today," along with other work at the Merrill Auditorium event. "I want to let people know where I come from and where my work comes from,” Blanco said. “I agreed to do it because it seemed like a great way to connect with my home state. I only moved here three or four years ago, and I am excited about the opportunity. And Merrill is a great space. It’s a great honor.”

Local gallerist Andy Verzosa galvanized early support for the idea through facebook and has created a public event listing he hopes will be shared widely. The event is funded by the Quimby Family Foundation and organized by Creative Portland, the parent organization of this website.

Although the event is free, tickets are required. They are available starting Monday, February 4th, through PortTix, which is waiving its usual event fee. Tickets are limited to two per person and can also be reserved in person at the Merrill Auditorium box office, or by calling 207-842-0800.

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