WATERVILLE — A lover of poetry, children and great literature, Ellen Richmond sought for months to get one of her favorite poets, Richard Blanco, to come to Waterville.

She had seen and heard him speak twice in person, watched the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama on television where Blanco read aloud his poem “One Today,” and has followed Blanco’s career since then.

Richmond, owner of the Children’s Book Cellar on Main Street, wanted central Mainers to be able to see and hear him in person. So she got in touch with him via email, negotiated with his publicist for several months, finally cinched a deal, and has rented the Waterville Opera House for his appearance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15.

At the event, Blanco, 47, of Bethel and Boston, will read his inaugural poem, “One Today,” from a new illustrated children’s book version of the poem.

The books are illustrated by Dav Pilkey, illustrator of the Captain Underpants children’s books.

“The illustrations are just vibrant, bright and beautiful and echo the intent of the poem,” Richmond said.

Books will be on sale in the Opera House lobby after the event, and Blanco will meet and greet patrons there and will sign books.

Richmond, 63, said Blanco will talk about his life as a poet during his onstage appearance.

“He, I believe, is going to talk a bit about how, for somebody in Bethel, Maine, it feels when you get a phone call saying the president would like you to write a poem for his inauguration,” she said. “I think it would be safe to say it probably has changed his life because he now is very visible.

“He wrote a poem, ‘Boston Strong,’ for Boston after the marathon bombing. He wrote another when the embassy reopened in Havana. He is much more prominent now. He is an amazing speaker.”

During the afternoon of Dec. 15, Blanco will visit Winslow Junior High School, where he will be hosted by the language arts department.

“He will speak to the students, read the poem and answer questions,” Richmond said.

Richmond had heard Blanco speak in 2014 at the New England Independent Booksellers Association show in Providence, where he presented his memoir, “The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Memoir.” She also heard him speak at her nephew’s graduation from the University of Southern Maine this year.

“I’m thrilled he is coming to Waterville because I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and was just blown away,” Richmond said. “He’s incredibly accessible. He’s very personable. I love his poetry.”

Richmond, who comes from a family of literature lovers, posts a poem on Facebook every morning. They vary from contemporary to classic.

“Sometimes they’re serious and sometimes they’re pretty light-hearted, like A.A. Milne’s ‘The King’s Breakfast,'” she said. “I just kind of have this thing for poetry, I guess.”

Richmond is a 1974 graduate of Connecticut College, where she majored in English.

Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exile parents, and when he was an infant, the family moved to Miami.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida International University. He has taught at Georgetown University, Central Connecticut State University and at the Writer’s Center.

In becoming an inaugural poet, Blanco followed in the footsteps of other poets, including Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. He is the first immigrant and Latino to be a U.S. inaugural poet. He also is the youngest and the first openly gay person to perform in that role.

His first book of poetry, “City of a Hundred Fires,” was published in 1998.

He was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and holds honorary doctorates from Colby College, Macalester College and the University of Rhode Island.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.