SeriesLIVE

Richard Blanco

Immigrant Archive Project
Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco discusses the power of being bilingual and bicultural and describes the experience of delivering the inaugural poem at President Obama's second inauguration.
Show transcript
00:00
Being bicultural is kind of this great little hidden secret
00:03
that you have.
00:03
It's living in two worlds at the same time.
00:06
And as a writer, it's fascinating to me because I'm constantly
00:09
paying attention to language.
00:16
I don't remember ever having a first language because I um
00:20
it was like, what was your first language?
00:21
Like, I never remember ever not knowing two languages because
00:25
when, I mean, I'm sure I learned Spanish first because it seemed
00:28
natural.
00:28
But since I was in day care, when, when we came, when we emigrated
00:32
to the United to New York, um my brother was seven years old
00:36
still didn't know English.
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He had spent three months in Spain.
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My parents knew not one, not one word in English.
00:43
And then as I, they got right to work.
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So I started going to g days day care.
00:48
Um As soon as I, you know, I was able to probably at two and I had
00:52
a little friend, Jay, uh African American kid, I'll never
00:55
forget him.
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And um he taught me English.
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So I knew as I was learning Spanish, I was learning English
01:01
and my parents would eventually you by four or five years old
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they were asking me how to translate things, how to, how do
01:07
you say this?
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How do you say that?
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How you say this?
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How do you say that?
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Um And it's really, to me it's more than the language.
01:13
It's, it's, it's two ways of thinking about the world.
01:16
Um It's two ways of solving problems.
01:19
It's two ways of asking questions.
01:22
It's two ways of everything and it's, and, and being by culture
01:26
is kind of this great little hidden secret that you have, especially
01:29
where I live in Maine.
01:30
You know, it's always this other dimension.
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It's always like sort of, you have a twin, you know, it's always
01:35
standing an invisible twin that you can like sort of become
01:38
that twin any single, any single moment.
01:41
Um It fascinates me as a poet because of how language, how,
01:46
how language affects how the, the connection between language
01:50
and culture and how the language reflects the culture and
01:53
how the culture reflects the language and how those two things
01:56
kind of happen together and, and create uh a mode of, of thinking
02:02
and a and a and a kind of a, a demeanor in, in a culture that's
02:07
actually dictated by the language or rather the language
02:09
is probably a reflection of those things that happen.