On January 21, Richard Blanco will become just the fifth poet in history to read a poem at the presidential inauguration . In 2006, Blanco was awarded PEN’s Beyond Margins Award for Directions to the Beach of the Dead. The following is an excerpt from his acceptance speech. 

“[T]he need to fulfill an ideal of home is a fundamental human desire, driving each of us to seek a unique physical as well as spiritual place in the world. But what exactly is place? What does it mean to say, I’m a Floridian, or, I’m Cuban? How do we come to call someplace a home?  What makes Miami, Miami or New York, New York? Is it the architecture; the people; the climate; its history; our memories; or our imagination?

I am interested in the complex ways in which memory, landscape, and imagination collide and blend to form a sense of place or home. I am fascinated by the notion that we are three-dimensional beings who constantly live in the context of place; everything we experience and feel is located in some particular space. As a writer I attempt to recreate a tangible realm of tactile images and details, but must also acknowledge that in some respects place is a human construct, an unreachable ideal that is ultimately indeterminable, and thus the subject of art.  These are some of the concerns I am most engaged with now in my quest to understand the measurable, as well as immeasurable, qualities of the world and my place in it. And although home may never be more than a myth just out of reach, an invisible city just outside my window, or a place between the lines of my poems, I endeavor, through poetry, to celebrate the mortal spirit seeking the ideal of home and the essential beauty of that journey.”