Dani Shapiro* nominated the poet and storyteller Richard Blanco:

Over the course of a lifetime, is the poet’s job to become emphatically, powerfully, profoundly himself. To dig, to sharpen, to know. That deep, ongoing store of knowledge becomes the self-as-instrument. Honed, or perhaps whittled away like beach debris, blanched, made more starkly beautiful by time’s passage, the poet – this poet, Richard Blanco – writes verse that isn’t so much read as entered. Blanco’s work pierces, in the most deceptively simple of ways. We don’t know what’s happened to us until suddenly we are nodding, we are weeping. Childhood, love, home, connection, grief, memory, longing, belonging – with tremendous access to the inner world of his young self – his territory is nothing less than what it means to be a person, alive, in this body, this moment.  

Blanco’s work pierces, in the most deceptively simple of ways

What strikes me most about Blanco, both as a poet and a person (if the two can be distinguished, which perhaps they cannot) is his generosity of spirit. The poet Jane Kenyon once described a poem as reaching a hand out to another, saying me too, I’ve been there too. When I read Blanco I feel less alone.  Less singular. My understanding of the human catastrophe sharpens and deepens in ways that enlarge my heart and my spirit, which is everything we can ask of the poet.  

*Photo of Dani with thanks to Annie Ling

Work by Richard Blanco:

Richard was the youngest poet in history to read at an inaugural ceremony. He also happened to be the first Latino, first immigrant and first gay person to do so. Watch him pay homage to the American experience at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2013 and read his poem 'One Today'.