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Richard Blanco

In honor of Poetry Month, we caught up with Blanco, who, when he served as inaugural poet at President Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013, went down in history as the youngest, the first Latino, the first immigrant and the first openly gay writer to hold the honor. Blanco, 46, was born in Madrid as the son of Cuban exiles who moved to the United States while he was a baby. He earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in creative writing from Florida International University. In November, he released his first book of prose, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey, in which he reflects on his understanding of what it means to be an American and his life-changing role as a public voice.

What's on your nightstand?

I'm traveling a lot, but I just finished judging the PEN New England Awards, and I've read Karen Skolfield's Frost in the Low Areas. I find her work makes me fall in love with poetry all over again. I love poems that take you to unexpected places. In every line it seems there was something unexpected. ... I would also like to say that I read more than poetry. I love reading psychospiritual authors (like Eckhart Tolle). He wrote A New Earth.

Do you have an up-and-coming young poet on your radar?

Rachel McKibbens .... I think she's absolutely phenomenal. She's a brand-new voice for America. Her poems have this incredible soul and heart and speak from experience and honest work.

Can you tell someone who doesn't read poetry the value of the craft?

You can read a poem quickly in a subway or in a dentist's office, and even though it's quick, it might be something that can change your entire life. I love that kind of compression found in poetry, that kind of illumination that it can offer. It is so quick and so magical, not to say that other genres can't do this well either.

Piper Castillo can be reached at or (727) 445-4163.