Jazz Poetry: Richard BlancoFriday, September 23, 2016 @ 8 p.m.
Join us for an evening of local jazz. Between jazz sets, these musicians will also collaborate with Richard Blanco and Henriikka Tavi for a jazz and poetry interlude.
Richard Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in US history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of three poetry collections: Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; and two memoirs: The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. The University of Pittsburgh Press has published the commemorative chapbooks One Today, Boston Strong, and Matters of the Sea, the last of which Blanco read at the historic reopening of the US Embassy in Havana. In 2015, the inaugural poem One Today was released as a children’s book, in collaboration with the renowned illustrator, Dav Pilkey.
Blanco’s many awards include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Thom Gunn Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. He is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, a Phi Beta Kappa Alumnus Member, and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. In 2015, The Academy of American Poets named him its first Education Ambassador. He has taught at Central Connecticut State University, Georgetown University, American University, and Wesleyan University. A builder of cities as well as poems, Blanco holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. He shares his time between Bethel, Maine and Concord, Massachusetts.
Whether speaking as the Cuban Blanco or the American Richard, the homebody or the world traveler, the scared boy or the openly gay man, the engineer or the inaugural poet, Blanco’s writings possess a story-rich quality that easily illuminates the human spirit. His captivating images and accessible narratives invite readers and audiences to see themselves in his poems, which for him are like mirrors in front of which we stand side by side with him—each one of us gazing into our respective lives blurred together with his, connecting us all across social, political, and cultural gaps. For in the end, his work asks himself those universal questions we all ask ourselves on our own journeys: Where am I from? Where do I belong? Who am I in this world?
Henriikka Tavi* (poet, fiction writer, translator; Finland) teaches creative writing, writes children’s fiction, and translates poetry and academic work into Finnish. She is a founding member of Poesia, a poetry publishing cooperative, and the author of Kaksitoista, an experimental poetry book project. She participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
*(poet curated by the international writing program at the University of Iowa.)