For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey by Richard Blanco (Beacon Press, 2013)
- “Every story begins inside a story that’s already begun by others.” (pg. 6) How does Blanco make sense of the story he was born into? How do his poems reflect his understanding?
- Blanco explores his fantasy version of America through the television shows that were popular in his youth, like "The Brady Bunch" and "Bewitched." How does popular culture shape our understanding of ourselves and the country we live in? How does Blanco depict the immigrant experience of these images? Does popular culture now reflect more diversity in its representation of what it means to be American? Why or why not?
- This is a short memoir featuring four of Blanco’s poems, three of which he wrote in three weeks for the inauguration. What do you learn about Blanco’s style and subject matter? How has Blanco’s poetry evolved from “América” to “One Today”? What has remained consistent?
- How does Blanco reconcile his career as a civil engineer with his calling as a poet? How might this provide a template for us all to incorporate artistic creation in our lives?
- Blanco speaks of the struggle in writing three occasional poems in three weeks. What is his process in balancing the needs of the occasion with his unique voice as a poet?
- The poem that was ultimately chosen for the inauguration, “One Today,” started with this prompt: “What do I love about America?” (pg. 60) What do you think about what he highlighted? What resonated for you in the poem? How would you answer this question?
- Blanco describes his life with his partner Mark in a small Maine town. He alludes to the difficulty of growing up gay as a Cuban-American, but he talks about the support they receive in their community. How is this love and community reflected in his vision of America?
- How does Blanco depict the experience of inauguration day? Why do you think he was chosen to write the inaugural poem? Why do you think there have been only five inaugural poets selected in American history?
- Blanco writes, “Poetry was born in the oral tradition, something I have always strived to honor, believing that reciting a poem should create an experience for the listener unique from that of simply reading the poem on the page.” (pg. 71) Does the experience of reading a poem to yourself and hearing it performed by its author impact you differently? What do you notice in reading versus listening/viewing?
View a PBS News Hour video of Blanco reading “One Today” at the inauguration.
- Blanco states that his mission is to open people’s lives to poetry. How do you think this can be accomplished? What ways can poetry matter in our lives? Share a poem that has meant something to you.