February 10, 2013

Bob Keyes: Call it the Blanco boom. Or bloom

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Richard Blanco at President Obama's inauguration

The Associated Press

"We want to build real relationships, partnerships and friendships all over Maine," O'Leary said. "This work is such a privilege. It's so gratifying."

The Blanco project started with a phone call.

Portland gallery owner Andy Verzosa was moved by Blanco's poem as he watched on TV. Verzosa felt as if Blanco had written the poem with him in mind.

He wanted the poet to read in Portland, so he called O'Leary and asked for money. Pretty simple, really.

"Andy is so positive about Portland and culture and the community," O'Leary said. "When he called me up, I think he thought the Quimby Family Foundation would help. I thought it was such a beautiful idea that we should partner with him to make it happen."

Verzosa proposed a reading in a small venue, with maybe 300 or so seats.

O'Leary had bigger ideas.

"I said, 'Andy, we are going to disappoint 1,000 or 2,000 people if we do it in such a small space. Why don't we do Merrill?' "

Verzosa began working the phones. He called Merrill and asked about available dates. He reached out to Blanco, and through the writer's agent learned that the poet was indeed interested -- honored, in fact -- about the prospect of reading in Maine's largest city.

And as luck would have it, one of the dates Blanco had available was an open date on the Merrill calendar.

Verzosa then got the Creative Portland Corp. to sign on as a financial conduit for the Quimby money, and -- voila -- an event was created.

It took about a day to pull the moving parts together.

And to the surprise of few, it took only a few hours to distribute all the tickets.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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