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Presidential Inaugural Poet RICHARD BLANCO talks with ROBERT HASS about The Prince of Los Cocuyos
Hillside Club
Berkeley, CA
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Richard Blanco has straddled many worlds. He was the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay writer to be selected as presidential inaugural poetas well as the youngest ever, at the age of forty-four.

Conceived in Cuba and born in Spain to his Cuban exile parents, Blanco moved to the U.S. when he was only forty-five days old. A civil engineer as well as a poet, teacher, and speaker, he strives through his work to connect us all across social, political, and cultural gaps.

The questions he asks are universal: Where am I from? Where do I belong? Who am I in this world?

Those questions are at the heart of Blanco's tender and often funny coming-of-age memoir, THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS, which is set in South Florida during the 1970s and early 80s -- before the South Beach renaissance. Blanco's charming, lyrical narrative recounts his at once singular and universal experience as the child of immigrants, navigating the cross-currents between the family's old Cuban identity and his new American one. Young Riqui tries to make sense of his bilingual and bifurcated reality -- a world with chickens in the backyard and The Brady Bunch on the television, where a domineering, if loving, Abuela shares memories of the past while her grandson tries to embrace the possibilities of the future and reckon with the awakening of his artistic and sexual identity that does not conform to his expectations of the tightly-knit community.

Richard Blanco has received numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate from Macalester College and being named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. His first book, City of a Hundred Fires received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize, his second, Directions to the Beach of the Dead won the PEN/American Beyond Margins Award, and his third, Looking for The Gulf Motel, received various accolades, including the Thom Gunn Award, the Maine Literary Award, and the Paterson Prize. His poems have appeared in countless literary journals and anthologies, including Best American Prose Poems and Ploughshares.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Blanco wrote Boston Strong, an occasional poem he performed at the TD Boston Garden Benefit Concert and at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Raised and educated in Miami, he earned a B.S. in civil engineering and a M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University. He lives in Maine.

With THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS ("cocuyos" are akin to fireflies, after which Blanco's local Cuban market was named), Blanco lovingly evokes the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of the Cuban community of his Miami childhood. It is a beautifully rendered, quintessentially American story of "becoming."

Blanco will be in conversation with Robert Hass, who has just been given the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, recognizing outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. His books of poetry include The Apple Trees at Olema, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Time and Materials, Sun Under Wood: New Poems, Human Wishes, Praise, and Field Guide. Hass also co-translated several volumes of poetry with Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz and is author or editor of several other volumes of translation, including Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer's Selected Poems and The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, as well as the essay collections What Light Can Do, winner of the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel award and Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997 and as Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

Books will be available for purchase; book signing follows the program. Note that advance ticket prices are lower than at-the-door admission ($20, no discounts, pending space available.)
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Hillside Club (View)
2286 Cedar Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
United States


Arts > Literary

Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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