"The word 'hope' felt tangible and real in his political rhetoric," Alexander said. That was something that resonated in Alexander's poem:
"I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
And this last stanza:
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light."
In writing his poem, Blanco will have to keep in mind one other key factor: that most people will hear his poem read aloud and perhaps never read it on paper or a computer screen.
"That means there has to be a level of clarity," Alexander said, adding that she was delighted that Blanco had been chosen this time.
"The question of how we become American is an enduring one and one that Blanco is dealing with in the present moment with his particulars," she said.
He is a nuanced poet who deserves this honor in every way, Alexander said.
"The ways in which the voices of a diverse America are being given more space and more time is something that's very exciting to see in the choice of Richard Blanco," Alexander said.
There have been only five inaugural poets in American history. Robert Frost was the first at President John Kennedy's 1961 inauguration. The others were Maya Angelou in 1993 for Bill Clinton; Miller Williams in 1997, again for Clinton; Alexander in 2009; and now, Blanco.
"We need to remember that it's not something you have to do," Alexander said. "You don't have to put culture on the program."
But there are things that can be said in poetry, she said, that can't be said in any other way.
That was the power of words, pulled from the heart and threaded together with utmost care and love. Those who know Blanco know that he will deliver.