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Richard Blanco and Gustavo Pérez Firmat

Americas Society

April 24, 2013
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Richard Blanco. (Courtesy of Blue Flower Arts)

Co-presented with The Cuban Cultural Center of New York

Americas Society hosted a conversation and reading featuring Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, recipient of the prestigious Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and the featured poet at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in January 2013, as well as Gustavo Pérez Firmat, acclaimed author and cultural critic (The Havana Habit).

Co-presented by the Americas Society and the Cuban Cultural Center of New York with the additional collaboration of InterAmericas®; Columbia University; Cooper Union—School of Art; Hunter College, CUNY; New York University; McNally Jackson Books; and La Casa Azul Bookstore.

"It is an honor to have Richard Blanco in our second inauguration. His contributions to the fields of poetry and art have paved the way for future generations of writers. Richard's work is well-suited for an opening that will celebrate the strength and diversity of our great country." -President Barack Obama, January 2013

“Reading [Blanco’s poetry] gave me the thrilling feeling I was trespassing on the intimate correspondence between a lover and a beloved...Ah, to be the object of such exquisite love!” -Sandra Cisneros, author

Event Information: Jose Negroni | jnegroni@as-coa.org | 1-212-277-8353
Membership Information: Valeria Catan | vcatan@as-coa.org | 1-212-277-8342
Press Inquiries: Adriana La Rotta | alarotta@as-coa.org | 1-212-277-8384


  • Listen to an interview with Blanco on NPR.
  • Watch a video of Blanco's reading at the 2013 inauguration.

Richard Blanco, born in 1968 in Madrid of Cuban heritage, immigrated to the United States and eventually developed a career as a civil engineer. He subsequently began writing poetry. As an award-winning poet, his books include City of a Hundred Fires (1998, Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize,), Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005, Beyond Margins Award), and Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012); the last collection touches on the author’s life as a gay man negotiating space between domestic and immigrant cultures. Following the 2012 reelection of President Barack Obama, Blanco was invited to read his poetry at the president’s inauguration on January 21, 2013, thereby becoming the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, following in the footsteps of poets Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, and Elizabeth Alexander. He also became the first Latino and openly gay-identified writer to hold the post, as well as the youngest thus far, at the age of 44. Blanco lives and works in Maine.

Gustavo Pérez Firmat, who was born in Havana and raised in Miami, has explored Cuban and Cuban-American culture in poetry collections, the memoir Next Year in Cuba (1995), and the essay collection Life on the Hyphen (rev. ed. 2011), among other publications. Life on the Hyphen received the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award and Honorable Mention in the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award. His most recent publication is The Havana Habit (2010), a study of the influence of Cuba upon the U.S. imagination from the colonial period to the present. Pérez Firmat is the David Feinson Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. In 2004, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also named one of New York’s thirty “outstanding Latinos” by El Diario La Prensa. Pérez Firmat serves as a member of the Americas Society Literature Advisory Board.