Poet Richard Blanco visits Emory and the ILA

By Lydia Abedeen 20C, IDEAS Fellow

On October 2nd, 2018, U.S. Inaugural Poet (2012) Richard Blanco and former Rose Library Director Rosemary Magee joined Emory students, faculty, staff, and alumni in an exclusive, invitation-only event and dinner hosted by the IDEAS Fellowship, the Engaged Learning Program in the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, and Emory Telling and Hearing Our Stories (ETHOS).

Richard Blanco and Emory faculty
During dinner, Blanco conversed with Magee about the writing process, his journey to success as an artist, and the stories that came with it. He spoke in depth about the struggles all artists face, as well as how his own unique culture and family influenced him and propelled him on his path to fame. All those who partook in the dinner participated in the key event: the story circle. Inspired by Appalachia’s Roadside Theater, story circles bring unity to communities through the telling of stories.

United under the prompt of “Tell the story of a time when a work of art (for example, a poem, a painting, a song, a play) changed your view of yourself or the world, “participants conversed with Blanco, Magee, and each other, driven by such a passionate theme.

On the following day, Blanco visited the ILA Senior Seminar, where he discussed the interdisciplinary nature of his work—Blanco is both an engineer and poet. Blanco began by reading two poems, “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” which nearly brought the class to tears, and “One Today,” his inaugural poem. The poetry engendered a lively discussion about memory, family stories, patriotism, and politics—perhaps the very definition of an interdisciplinary conversation!