It’s an extremely tall order to write a poem for such a ceremonial occasion, so I think some of the negative comments on Richard Blanco’s Inaugural poem are a bit unfair. The Guardian called it a “valiant flop” and noted the writing was tired in parts and ultimately blames the constraints and challenges of the celebratory public poem in our era on the lackluster content. For the amount of prose poetry I myself write, I found the poem to be too prosey in parts. There were parts where I felt like Blanco was breaking from the reading to address the audience on an aside. At other times, it had elements of Walt Whitman – elegant descriptions and beautiful imagery. Thematically, the poem focused on unity, equality, and togetherness, and was a perfect reflection of Obama’s own speech.
Blanco, the first gay and Latino Inaugural poet, talks to Anderson Cooper in this clip about Obama’s connection of the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement. It’s too bad Blanco is a long-term relationship as I personally think these two would have made a delightful couple. Blanco is also a civil engineer turned poet, which gives me hope for my own writing career.
The poem “One Today” can be heard and read in entirety here.