Arts and Entertainment

Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Virtually Visits Stuyvesant

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In these times of social, economic, and political unrest, one often seeks solace in the words we say within the communities we share. Author and presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco visited English teacher Dr. Emily Moore’s Poetry Workshop class—an English elective available to juniors and seniors—and the broader Stuyvesant community via Zoom on June 9 to share his journey with poetry. His talk generated a candid and insightful dialogue with students that highlighted the fluidity and unexpectedness of his poetry career.

Born in Madrid to a Cuban-exile family but growing up in Miami, Blanco’s experience in a working-class immigrant family led him to originally pursue a financially-stable career in civil engineering. However, his curiosity and creativity eventually led him to pursue a degree in creative writing. For a while, he was an engineer by day, poet by night.

But he decided to pursue a full-time career in poetry after some time. He discussed how home and community serve as major sources of inspiration for his poetry, especially given the current circumstances. As a poet, he also spoke of the challenging but thought-provoking process that came with writing prose in his memoir. On that note, he read some of the poetry he had been working on and answered some questions posed by students afterward.

One of his poems, “Since Unfinished,” was an ode to the circularity of life despite the slightly unfinished feeling to it. “Looking for the Gulf Motel” was an intimate look into the influence of his family’s emotional legacy. The rise and fall of his voice as he spoke provided a steady, comforting cadence.

It was also reassuring to hear the realistic struggles he experienced along the way—he treated poetry as a vocation for a long time before considering it as a career, and harbored many insecurities regarding his work. But he spoke highly of pursuing one’s creative and intellectual curiosity with a degree of sensibility as well as a willingness to overcome possible adversity—something for the larger Stuyvesant community to keep in mind as we navigate these trying times that have impacted our learning and engagement.

Overall, it was inspiring to hear someone speak so passionately about poetry and treat it as its own living entity. Blanco described language as “a way of seeing the world.” He views poetry as a means of self-discovery, the answer to one’s questions, and an opening to ask more. I’ll keep this in mind next time I approach poetry, with a sense of both invitation and closure.