NPR Story
4:34 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

One Year Later: Reflections On An Inaugural Poem

When Richard Blanco was tapped last year to write the inaugural poem at the ceremony for President Obama’s second term, he was more than surprised. The Latino gay poet was given three weeks to write and submit three poems.

Blanco says the poem chosen for the big day, “One Day,” was not his favorite. We hear the one that was: “Mother Country.”

Guest

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

A year ago today, Richard Blanco was on the steps of the United States Capitol, invited to read a poem he had written for President Obama's inauguration. It was titled "One Today."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

RICHARD BLANCO: One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

HOBSON: Blanco was the youngest poet ever asked to write a poem for a presidential inauguration. He was also the first Latino and openly gay poet to have the honor. Blanco has now written a book about his experience in which he says he was given three weeks to write and submit three poems for the inauguration. And he told HERE AND NOW contributing station WLRN in Miami that while "One Today" was picked, it was not his favorite. That would have been "Mother Country," which he reads here.

BLANCO: To love a country as if you've lost one. 1968, my mother leaves Cuba for America, a scene I imagine as if standing in her place. One foot inside a plane destined for a country she knew only as a name, a color on a map, or glossy photos from drugstore magazines. Her other foot anchored to the platform of her patria. Her hand clutched around one suitcase, taking only what she needs most: hand-colored photographs of her family, her wedding veil, the doorknob of her house, a jar of dirt from her backyard, goodbye letters she won't open for years.

HOBSON: Poet Richard Blanco reading from his poem "Mother Country." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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