Thursday, August 13, 2020
Richard Blanco to Touch on Hot Topics of Culture and Identity Tonight
Thursday, July 16, 2020


Award-winning poet Richard Blanco will deliver the first in-person lecture at The Community Library tonight since the coronavirus forced Wood River Valley businesses and organizations to shelter in place.

The library had just hosted author Jamie Ford, who talked about the Japanese experience during World War II, as activities in the Wood River Valley came to a screeching halt in mid-March.

That reverses at 6 tonight when Blanco will deliver the Hemingway Distinguished Lecture.

But it won’t be in the library’s lecture room, which opened last year to critical acclaim. Instead, Blanco will speak from the library’s new 4th Street veranda with the audience seated spaced apart on the library lawn in front of a closed off 4th Street corridor.

While admission is free, seating will be limited in keeping with COVID-19 protocols. It filled up in early June, but the library is maintaining a waiting list, and standing-only walk-ins will be welcome.

The event will also be livestreamed at

Blanco, who read the poem “One Today” at President Obama’s inauguration, will read some of his poetry, accompanying it with commentary.

Blanco, who started out a civil engineer, is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. He’s also the youngest, first Latino, immigrant and gay person to serve in such a role.

Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, his work asks such questions as: Where am I from? Where do I belong? And who am I in this world?

His poetry collections include “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” which focused on his navigation through his cultural, sexual and artistic identities; “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” based on his explorations of the ideal of home and connection, and “City of a Hundred Fires,” which explored his cultural yearnings and contradictions as a Cuban-American.”

His “How to Love a Country” explores such themes as place and identity, sexuality, race, violence and immigration.

“He does not shy away from writing about hard issues, yet his writings contain a sense of humor,” said Library Director Jenny Emery Davidson.

Blanco is spending three weeks in residency at the Mary and Ernest Hemingway House Writer-in-Residence apartment in Ketchum. He led an outdoors workshop for local students and educators this week.

He will also write an original poem for the community that will be shared at tonight’s lecture.

Blanco, who lives in Bethel, Maine, has also authored a couple memoirs, including “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood.” It is a poignant and hilarious story of his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants.”

“In a world where each day we may be overwhelmed by unknowns, here at the library we have found great solace in Richard’s poetry,” said Martha Williams, the programs and education manager at The Community Library. “Even in addressing the darkest subjects, his poems inspire hope for our future and invite conversations about identity, race, sexuality and culture. “

The Hemingway Distinguished Lecture is presented each July by The Community Library, honoring the month of Ernest Hemingway’s birth and death. Hemingway spent time in Sun Valley beginning in the 1930s and lasting through his death in 1961.

Previous lectures have been presented by Terry Tempest Williams, Anthony Doerr and Sherman Alexie.



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