Richard Blanco’s first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, was published in 1998 to critical acclaim, winning the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. The collection explored his cultural yearnings and contradictions as a Cuban-American and captured the details of his transformational first trip to Cuba, his figurative homeland. His second book of poems, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (2005), received the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center. His third book of poetry, Looking for The Gulf Motel (2012), received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Poetry, and the Thom Gunn Award. President Barack Obama selected Blanco in 2012 to serve as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role, Blanco read “One Today,” an original poem he wrote for the occasion, at Obama’s inauguration ceremony on January 21, 2013.
Since the inauguration, Blanco has been named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. His memoir, The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood (2014), is a poignant, hilarious, and inspiring exploration of his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities. It received the 2015 Maine Literary Award for Memoir and the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir.