When Winslow Junior High School teacher Lisa Ericson heard that poet Richard Blanco was coming to Waterville, she was committed to get him across the river to speak to her students.

“I’m thrilled to death,” she said.

Blanco, who has worked with children as young as third grade, he hopes his visit on Tuesday will help demystify poetry

“Writing is just as important as math and as physics,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “I just hope (the students) walk away a little less scared of poetry, and realize that poetry is an art with multiple voices.

“I want to turn them onto poetry.”

Ericson is a friend of Ellen Richmond, the owner of the Childrens Book Cellar on Main Street Waterville, who lobbied for months to get Blanco to speak at the Waterville Opera House.

Blanco will read from “One Today,” the poem he wrote for President Barack Obama’s second term inauguration in 2013. Blanco coming to Waterville to promote a version of the poem that he has made into a book for children.

In the afternoon before his Opera House appearance, Blanco will speak to the Winslow Junior High School student body, as well as the Winslow High School freshmen and the high school creative writing class. Ericson said she originally wanted to invite Waterville Junior High School, but there wasn’t enough space in the auditorium.

Blanco believes that poetry is just as relevant to children and teenagers as it is to adults. Because poetry is such a vast art form, like music, Blanco says it can be perceived different ways by different people, especially depending on the age of the reader or listener.

“With a poem, like any art form, there are many points of entry,” Blanco said. “I still read the same poems I have been reading since high school, and every time I read it I get something different out of it.”

Ericson, a writer and poet herself, teaches 7th grade English language arts and she has been overjoyed that Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, shares time between his home in Bethel and Boston, Massachusetts.

“I love what he represents,” Ericson said.

“He has a lot to offer the state, it’s really nice to bring someone who speaks with a voice about issues of diversity,” she added. “I love the fact that our kids are being exposed to this internationally-recognized writer and poet.”

Blanco will touch on his creative process, his experiences, and answer questions from students, Ericson said. In the lead-up to the presentation, Ericson has been talking to her students about the powerful inaugurial poem, and how Blanco was able to highlight, in one composition, the unique traits that make America a unified country of individuals. Then, she asked them to think about writing such a piece and reading it to a crowd of a million people, like Blanco did at the inauguration in 2013.

The poem begins:

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

The school tries to bring in a writer to speak to students every year, but Blanco “overshadows anyting we have done,” she said.

While some students understand who is coming and are excited by Blanco’s visit, others won’t recognize how important it is until he’s on the stage talking to them, Ericson added.

“I think once he comes and is real-life in front of them, it will mean more,” she said.

Blanco is scheduled to speak at the school from 12:30-1 p.m. Tuesday.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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.