April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate, the Bangor Public Library has partnered with Bangor High School to bring poet Richard Blanco to Bangor. Blanco will read from his works at a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, at the library.
The library will host the 13th annual POETS/SPEAK! celebration in cooperation with the University of Maine and the University of Maine Museum of Art at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, April 4.
Selected by President Obama to be the fifth inaugural poet in history, Blanco followed in the footsteps of Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams and Elizabeth Alexander. He read his poem, “One Today” at President Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013.
The negotiation of cultural identity and universal themes of place and belonging, characterize his three collections of poetry, “City of a Hundred Fires,” awarded the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and “Looking for The Gulf Motel,” winner of the Patterson Poetry Prize, a Maine Literary Poetry Award, and the Thom Gunn Award. His poems also have appeared in The Best American Poetry 2000, Great American Prose Poems; and he has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as major media from the United States and around the world, including CNN, Telemundo, AC360, BBC, Univision and PBS. Blanco is a Fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. A builder of cities as well as poems, he is a professional civil engineer living in Bethel.
“We could not be more excited to celebrate National Poetry Month by having Richard Blanco speak to our community,” said Barbara McDade, library director. “His story relates to all of us and we are eager to hear him share his story, his experiences and his powerful gift of words.”
Saturday’s daylong event, POETS/SPEAK! is one of the largest free poetry festivals in Maine. This year’s program will feature more than 25 well-known and emerging poets from around the state, including Simin Koshravani reading Persian poetry. The event will include live jazz, local Poetry Out Loud winners and a performance by Belfast poet laureate Touissant St. Negritude.
The festival will begin at 11 a.m. at the University of Maine Art Museum, 40 Harlow St., with light refreshments and an opportunity to meet the poets and purchase their books.
The morning program will include an homage to the late poet-artist Mark Strand, UMaine student Randy Nichols reading from the work of New York poet and art museum curator Frank O’Hara, Poetry Out Loud winners from Bangor High School, poet-artists Annaliese Jakimides and Cheryl Daigle, and a guided tour of the museum’s current exhibits.
The festival will move to the Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow St., for the afternoon events, kicking off with live jazz by saxophonist Jay Bregman and the Swingmatism Quintet at 12:45 p.m.
According to the event coordinator, Orono poet and University of Maine lecturer in English Kathleen Ellis, this year’s festivities include such well-known poets as Bucksport poet laureate Patricia Ranzoni, former Belfast poets laureate Jacob Fricke and Ellen Sander, Stefania Irene Marthakis, Marita O’Neill, Duff Plunkett, Bruce Pratt and many others.
UMaine student poets Antonio Addessi, Cameron Grover, Isaiah Mansour, Hannah Ruhlin, Derrek Schrader, Danielle Walczak and others also will participate.
Tickets are required for the Richard Blanco event. The programs are free to the public, but to reserve a space, contact Lisa Frazell at the Bangor Public Library by calling 947-8336 or emailing Lisa.Frazell@bangorpubliclibrary.org. There is a maximum of four tickets per household.