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Gay Cuban-American poet to recite at Obama's inauguration


Richard Blanco will become the first ever Hispanic or homosexual person to read at a president's swearing-in

The award-winning Cuban-American gay poet Richard Blanco is set to become the first ever Hispanic or homosexual person to recite a poem at the US president's swearing-in ceremony.

Blanco, 44, will also become the youngest ever inaugural poet when he recites a poem of his own composition on 21 January. President Barack Obama, who helped choose Blanco as his inaugural poet, said he was "honoured" that the author would be joining him and his vice president Joe Biden at their second swearing-in ceremony.

"His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers," said Obama. "Richard's writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation's great diversity."

Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiles. His parents moved to New York City shortly after his birth, and raised him in Miami. As Blanco himself puts it, he was "made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States". His poetry, from his first collection City of a Hundred Fires, to his third, Looking for the Gulf Motel, published last year, deals with "the collective American experience of cultural negotiation through the lens of family and love, particularly his mother's life shaped by exile, his relationship with his father, and the passing of a generation of relatives" said the inauguration's organisers, as well as his life as a Cuban-American gay man.

"I'm beside myself, bestowed with this great honour, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude," Blanco said. "In many ways, this is the very 'stuff' of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life's story – America's story, really. I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry."

He joins a list of former inaugural poets including Robert Frost – who spoke at John F Kennedy's 1961 inauguration – Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander, who recited the poem "Praise Song for the Day" for Obama in 2009.

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