09 January 2013

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco, Poet, Cuban-American, Gay, Inauguration, Obama
Richard Blanco (photo by Nico Tucci)
I was planning on putting a poem on the blog today, anyway - then early this morning news came down that gay Cuban American poet Richard Blanco had been chosen to read an original poem at President Obama's Inauguration on January 21st! I've known his work since his Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize-winning debut, City of a Hundred Fires (1998), and so am completely thrilled by this news, and am anxious to hear what he has written to present to the nation.

I am also expecting some backlash - 'Obama is catering to his gay base, he's playing the Latino card, this is more about Identity Politics than the Art of Poetry' and other forms of similar BS. Blanco's work is strong enough to stand such petty, 'Sour Grapes' sniping.

PS: As a friend mentioned on Facebook last night, for those keeping partisan score at home, in the Inaugural Poet category that's

Democrats 5, Republicans 0

(Robert Frost, Kennedy; Maya Angelou and Miller Williams, Clinton; Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, Obama)

Here's a prose poem by Richard Blanco, that is part of our One City, Many Poems initiative here at Poets House. Hear him read this poem on his website

Mexican Almerzo in New England

for MG

Word is praise for Marina, up past 3:00 a.m. the night before her flight, preparing and packing the platos tradicionales she's now heating up in the oven while the tortillas steam like full moons on the stovetop. Dish by dish she tries to recreate Mexico in her son's New England kitchen, taste-testing el mole from the pot, stirring everything: el chorizo-con-papas, el picadillo, el guacamole. The spirals of her stirs match the spirals in her eyes, the scented steam coils around her like incense, suffusing the air with her folklore. She loves Alfredo, as she loves all her sons, as she loves all things: seashells, cacti, plumes, artichokes. Her hand waves us to circle around the kitchen island, where she demonstrates how to fold tacos for the gringo guests, explaining what is hot and what is not, trying to describe tastes with English words she cannot savor. As we eat, she apologizes: not as good as at home, pero bueno. . . It is the best she can do in this strange kitchen which Sele has tried to disguise with papel picado banners of colored tissue paper displaying our names in piñata pink, maíz yellow, and Guadalupe green--strung across the lintels of the patio filled with talk of an early spring and do you remembers that leave an after-taste even the flan and café negro don't cleanse. Marina has finished. She sleeps in the guest room while Alfredo's paintings confess in the living room, while the papier-mâché skeletons giggle on the shelves, and shadows lean on the porch with rain about to fall. Tomorrow our names will be taken down and Marina will leave with her empty clay pots, feeling as she feels all things: velvet, branches, honey, stones. Feeling what we all feel: home is a forgotten recipe, a spice we can find nowhere, a taste we can never reproduce, exactly.

from Directions to the Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005)

No comments: