The first Latino and the first gay man to recite his work at a presidential inauguration, will also share his work with a local audience during next month’s St. Andrews University Spring Writers’ Forum.
The 2013 Inauguration Poet Richard Blanco will read Feb. 28 at St Andrews in Laurinburg.
Blanco, is expected to write an original poem and recite it at the public inauguration ceremony on Monday.
According to inaugural committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant, Blanco was personally selected by President Barack Obama because his “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.” Blanco is the son of Cuban exiles.
“It is an honor to have Richard Blanco in our second inauguration,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”
The 44-year-old will also be the youngest person to serve the role.
“Even though it’s been a few weeks since I found out, just thinking about my parents and my grandparents and all the struggles they’ve been through, and how, you know, here I am, first-generation Cuban-American, and this great honor that has just come to me, and just feeling that sense of just incredible gratitude and love,” he said in an interview with NPR.
Blanco’s first book of poetry, “City of a Hundred Fires,” received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. His second book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” won the Beyond the Margins Award from the PEN American Center. A third collection, “Looking for The Gulf Motel,” was published in 2012. His poems have appeared in top literary journals and he has been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” Blanco is the recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, a Residency Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and is a John Ciardi Fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.
In addition to Blanco, the university forum lineup includes the North Carolina Poet Laureate and an Emmy-winner among award winning distinguished poets.
The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place Thursday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. This semester the forum will primarily meet in Pate Main Lounge, with special events held in alternate locations.
The annual Brunnenburg Night Forum started the semester off on Jan. 17, with retired assistant professor of education Tony Cates leading the event.
North Carolina Poet Laureate and longtime St. Andrews friend Joseph Bathanti will read on Jan. 24.
“Joseph Bathanti is an award-winning poet and novelist with a robust commitment to social causes,” said former Gov. Bev Perdue in naming Bathanti the seventh poet laureate. “He first came to North Carolina to work in the VISTA program and has taught writing workshops in prisons for 35 years. As North Carolina’s new Poet Laureate he plans to work with veterans to share their stories through poetry — a valuable and generous project.”
Distinguished poet John Hoppenthaler will read on Jan. 31. A two-term Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the Eastern Region of North Carolina, Hoppenthaler is an assistant professor in the Department of English in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University. His poetry has been widely published and he has received multiple arts grants over the years.
The first Open Mic of the spring takes place on Feb. 7. Open Mics are an opportunity for student and community writers to share poetry, prose and music. Those interested in sharing their work are asked to keep their selections to 5-7 minutes. Student host Vincent Pugh will maintain the sign up list for participants. Additional Open Mics are scheduled for Feb. 21, March 7 and April 11.
Noted poet, writer and translator Carlos Reyes will read Feb. 14. The 2007 winner of the Heinrich Boll Fellowship to write on Achill Island Ireland received the 2008 Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award from St. Andrews. His 1995 “A Suitcase Full of Crows” was a Bluestem Prize winner and finalist for the 1996 Oregon Book Awards.
After an Open Mic and Spring Break, the forum will move to the Storytelling & Arts Center of the Southeast in downtown Laurinburg for The Storytelling Festival of Carolina on March 21.
This is the second year St. Andrews will participate in the kickoff event that features teller in the olio program. The three-day festival will feature nationally renowned storytellers Bill Lepp, Willie Claflin, Rev. Robert B. Jones, Barbara McBride-Smith and Gwen Rainer.
After a break for Easter, the forum returns to campus for a special reading on Monday, April 1 by Emmy Award winner Kwame Dawes.
Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet Dawes is the award-winning author of 16 books of poetry and numerous books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama. He is the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy for LiveHopeLove.com, an interactive site based on his Pulitzer Center project, Hope: Living and loving with AIDS in Jamaica. It has also won other accolades including a People’s Voice Webby Award and was the inspiration for the music/spoken word performance Wisteria & HOPE, which premiered at the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina. Dawes also won The Forward Prize for Poetry for his first book “Progeny of Air.”
The annual Ethel N. Fortner Writer and Community Award and the Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award will be presented at a special ceremony on April 4. Former Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Linda Carlisle will receive the Fortner Award while noted potter Mark Hewett will receive the Ragan Award.
After an April 11 Open Mic, the forum will conclude for spring semester with the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Central Region reading in DeTamble Library as part of National Library Week. Central Region Distinguished-Poet Ann Deagon will share her own works while also introducing the works of the three student poets she mentored beginning in December.