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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Inaugural poet inspires students to expand viewpoint

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Richard Blanco visited UH Monday night and shared his experiences as an inaugural poet and LGBTQ person. Photo by Gabe LaBounty | The Cougar.


In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion presented an evening with Richard Blanco on Monday at the Student Center — South Houston Room.

Blanco is the first immigrant, Latino, openly gay and youngest person to be a U.S. Inaugural poet after he was a part of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He is known for his unique background, being an engineer who writes poetry, one who happens to have a multi-country background and a member of the LGBTQ community.

Merging engineering and poetry comes easy to Blanco, who worked as a full time engineer even during his writing Master of Fine Arts program. Blanco said it is beneficial to have an artistic viewpoint in every field of study.

“Your generation will have to live much more dynamic lives, not just in terms of knowledge, but in global perspective,” Blanco said. “I always say that you should have a liberal arts approach to life, even if you do not get a liberal arts degree, because life will teach you that anyway.”

Blanco believes the same narrow thinking plague poets as well. As a member of different fields, Blanco has a perspective of how both groups of people operate and how they can integrate their passions.

“Artists suffer from reductionist thinking as well,” Blanco said. “Poets think that they cannot be anything but a poet, that if you do something else, you will be branded as a sellout. There is this misconception that if you don’t subscribe to every stereotype for your career, you won’t be taken seriously.”

With a spotlight on getting a degree rather than an education, Blanco warns against students getting pushed into one niche during their college tenure.

“There is a little bit of an outdated model of perception that we are going to study one thing, work at a company (and) get a pension,” Blanco said. “Your generation is going to live to be 120. You will not be doing something for 80 years, so you have to think about how you can broaden the scope and look at your passions that way. In many universities, there is a knee-jerk reaction to a weakened economy that slices students even thinner, but students should be looking at things broadly.”

Blanco, who is proud to say he was “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported to the United States,” inspired fellow writers and students alike to continue their passions. When asked to relay one of his poems to a large audience, he chose “Looking for the Gulf Motel.”

Associate Director for Mexican-American Studies Lorenzo Cano teaches the Hispanic Identity class. He said that he invited his students to Blanco’s presentation as way of showing the diversity in Hispanic culture and an insight on Cuban-American culture. .

“We can celebrate how we are different and find out how we are the same in the same moment,” Blanco said. “Poetry allows us to see one another. There is something universal about this particular story about my Cuban family going on vacation, and so the poem spun around that. The reason I am (at UH) is to celebrate national Hispanic heritage month, but it’s really to bring into the fold different cultures.”

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