Inaugural poet to speak at Lenoir-Rhyne

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 3, 2019

HICKORY – The Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series continues with Richard Blanco, Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in Belk Centrum.

Blanco, a Cuban-American poet, draws on many themes, such as what it means to be an American and a gay man. The event is co-sponsored by OUTright Youth, ALFA and Hickory International Council and campus partner LR Pride, all organizations or agencies that support respect and mutual understanding. An LGBTQ advocate, Blanco will meet with these groups, who are reading and discussing his most recent book “How to Love a Country.” 

As a poet, memoirist and essayist, Blanco is a sought-after speaker who captivates audiences around the nation and the world with his dynamic storytelling and powerful readings. Advocating for diversity, LGBTQ rights, immigration, arts education, cultural exchange, and other contemporary issues, Blanco routinely speaks at middle and high schools, universities and commencement ceremonies. 

In 2013, Blanco was selected by former President Barack Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, joining the ranks of such luminary poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. He stands as the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role.

Since 2016, he has served on the Obama Foundation’s storytelling committee. His early works include: “City of a Hundred Fires,” “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” and “Looking for the Gulf Hotel.” In 2017, Two Ponds Press published “Boundaries,” featuring Blanco’s poems paired with Jacob Hessler’s photos. 

 His latest book of poems, “How to Love a Country,” both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkempt promise of its ideals. About this collection, poet Carolyn Forché reflects: “In this timely collection, Richard Blanco masterfully embraces his role as a civic poet, confronting our nation’s riddled history in the light of conscience. At once personal and political, these lyric narratives decry injustice and proclaim our hopes.” To learn more about the author, visit

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call the LR Box Office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at 828.328.7206.