Inaugural poet to teach at FIU

Richard Blanco is returning to FIU, this time as a professor.

The FIU alumnus has spent his career writing and delivering socially minded poetry, including poems for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration and the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring Richard back to FIU and give our students the chance to learn from one of the biggest names in poetry today,” said Mike Heithaus, dean of the FIU College of Arts, Sciences & Education. “The fact that he is an alumnus makes this opportunity especially rewarding for our university.”

When Blanco steps into the classroom this fall, he will be challenging students in writing and reimagining poetry in new and meaningful ways. His class schedule includes Poetry as News and Writing Occasional Poetry in the Department of English as well as Poetry, Art and Community in the Honors College, a class he will teach alongside senior instructor John Bailly.

Richard Blanco FIU alumnus magazine spring 2007

“Richard’s voice as a poet transforms the personal into the universal. That is the magic,” Bailly said. “He captures the essence of who we are, our dreams and our failures. His guidance as a professor will reveal through reflection the cultural and humanistic beauty and tragedy of Miami.”

All three classes are designed with interactive opportunities for the students to engage with poetry.

“At critical times, we turn to poetry to find language for what we can’t understand about what’s going on or what we feel,” Blanco said. “That’s why I developed these courses, to bring to the forefront the scrutiny and wisdom of poetry as it relates to this critical juncture in our nation’s divide.”

Blanco says most students are taught a poem is only about the poet and what he or she intended. A poem, he says, is a mirror that reflects both the poet’s life and reader’s life while trying to make sense of an event or experience.

“Every time I read a great poem or I sit down to write one, I discover something new about myself, the world and my relationship to it,” Blanco said. “And, so, I hope the same happens for them through the poetry we’ll read, discuss and feel. I want them to know poetry belongs to them because it is about them.”

The award-winning poet has previously taught courses at Central Connecticut State University, Georgetown University, American University and Wesleyan University. He was named the first education ambassador for the Academy of American Poets in 2015. A builder of cities as well as poems, Blanco holds a bachelor of science in Civil Engineering and a master of fine arts in Creative Writing, both from FIU.