Richard Blanco, a Bethel man who was a presidential inauguration poet, will be the keynote guest at the University of Maine at Augusta’s 14th annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival next month.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday, April 8, from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Augusta campus, according to a press a release from the college.

Blanco will read and answer questions April 9 from 2 to 3 p.m. at UMA’s Jewett Hall Auditorium, capping the festival’s events that also include a panel discussion, music and other poetry readings.

Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, broke several barriers when he read a poem at President Obama’s second inauguration in January 2013: He was the youngest (44), the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Blanco was born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami.

His many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. He has also been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air.

Other activities at UMA’s poetry festival will include a performance by Brio (formerly members of Improvox), local student poetry award announcements (both high school and college level), a panel discussion about Richard Blanco’s poetry, memoir, and integrated themes, readings by local poets and students, as well as a musical performance by UMA Jazz Students.

The festival is held in April each year to honor Terry Plunkett, a former English professor at UMA.


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