Miami man to serve as inaugural poet

Richard Blanco handpicked by President Barack Obama for Inauguration Day

(COURTESY: Richard Blanco)

MIAMI – A man raised and educated in Miami will serve as the inaugural poet on Monday.

Richard Blanco was handpicked by President Barack Obama. It was big news to those who know him best.

"For him to be endorsed by President Obama, I feel like he is endorsing all of the diversity of Miami," said John Bailly, a professor at FIU.

Bailly met Blanco about 20 years ago when both were students at FIU.

Recently, the pair worked on a collaborative project called "Place of Mind," a mix of painting and poetry.

"It wasn't just reworking certain lines or certain words. It's essentially -- he's got this idea at the heart of the poem, but then everything around there -- it's building a house of cards, knocking it down, and building it up again," said Bailly.

At 44 years old, Blanco is the youngest inaugural poet ever selected. He's also the first Hispanic and gay person to be chosen.

Blanco was born in Spain. His parents were Cuban exiles who settled in Miami, where Blanco was raised. He currently lives in Maine.

Bailly said he can only imagine the pressure his friend feels right now.

"It would be difficult enough to recite an exciting poem, but to have to write three new, occasional poems specifically for this would be an overwhelming pressure," he said. "However, with Richard, tension is what leads to beauty."

Blanco has released three books of his works and often returns to FIU to read his poetry to students.

"I don't think that it could have happened to a greater poet and a nicer person," said Bailly.

Robert Frost was the first inaugural poet. He served in John F. Kennedy's Inauguration Day in 1961.