Last night I heard poetry for the first time. I have listened to poetry before and I’ve enjoyed it. I have favorite poems. But last night, listening to Richard Blanco read and speak, I heard poetry that infiltrated past my ears to settle somewhere between them and resonate where my soul resides.
His experiences are not my experiences. My white bread, 80s punk rock adolescence is as far from his rich, Cuban coming-of-age as vanilla ice cream from espresso gelato… but listening to his deep, clear voice talk about his growing up is the same as listening to my own story in a different flavor.
That’s why Blanco was chosen to read at a presidential inauguration, a privilege very few poets have enjoyed. He takes his individual experience, gilds it in gold and shows it to us. As we look, we realize we are seeing our ordinary selves as we really are – extraordinary and uniquely similar. Blanco allows us to realize that it’s our blemishes, faults and imperfections that make us the lovely, awkward beings we are.
He stands in the company of Angelou and Frost, and I am thrilled to have had a few moments to stand in his company and be charmed by the warmth and honest cleverness that is Richard Blanco.