Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco’s Journey Home To America

Richard Blanco

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco talks about his experiences growing up as a Cuban-American, about excelling by belonging to two cultures.

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7 thoughts on “Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco’s Journey Home To America”

  1. “[Blanco] doesn’t know how or why he was chosen [as inaugural poet].” Come now, the math is hardly difficult. Try first “Latino” and first (openly) gay inaugural poet, not to mention duly PC and Dem-friendly. Talent, you say? Maybe, maybe not, but you’d better believe a poet with “incorrect” views and background would NOT have been offered that job, regardless of his talent. Also, does anyone actually believe there was no better poet available in the entire US?

    Still, Blanco already got plenty of attention here around the time of his 15 minutes, which he’s now trying to prolong, not to say milk, with his book about that inaugural gig. Do poets normally write books about how they wrote their poems? Anyway, we’ve almost certainly paid this business too much attention, and there’s rather little left to say. He’s entitled to do his thing, such as it may be, and no doubt he can get more mileage out of being “progressive.” He may even be genuine about it, as opposed to calculating, but either way, I think we’re talking Cubanoid, not Cuban. In other words, let him knock himself out impressing all the proper people and leave him to them–they’re definitely not “those people.”

    And Alberto, he was visiting his mother, who happens to live in Miami. That doesn’t mean he was out to “get back to his exile roots.” If she lived in, say, Boston, he’d obviously have gone there instead of South Florida. Geography alone can explain the matter.

  2. I saw a copy of Blanco’s new book. The people who wrote little blurbs recommending it on its back cover include Gloria Estefan, but that’s small potatoes compared to the pièce de résistance: the quiveringly sensitive and exquisitely poetic Nancy Pelosi. Solavaya, baby. SOLAVAYA. However, one must admit that a Pelosi plug is a good way to keep Blanco from being lumped with “those people,” which of course would never do. Poetry is hard enough to move as it is; poetry (like art in general) from anyone significantly “incorrect” is practically DOA. The people who control the literary and artistic establishments make a big show out of being “open-minded,” but in practice that only applies to people they find congenial (or convenient).

  3. If Blanco doesn’t know why he was chosen as inaugural poet, he should analyze that, though no doubt it’s easier to just go with it. It’s virtually certain that his ethnicity and sexual orientation were significant or even decisive factors, as there must have been other candidates under consideration who were presumably qualified for the job in terms of their work as poets. The obvious issue here is that neither being “Latino” (or black, or whatever) nor being openly gay should have come into it, since such things are extraneous to actual poetic talent. In other words, if a better poet was passed over because he or she happened to be a heterosexual WASP, we not only have a problem but an injustice.

  4. Although I believe Blanco’s ethnicity and sexual orientation played a role in his selection, I think it was nothing more than icing on the cake. In my opinion, it was Blanco’s politics and his ideology, which includes his view of the historic Cuban exile community that he described as such: “the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue, filling the creases of their wrinkled lips; clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth, ashamed and empty as hollow trees.”

    All of Blanco’s Hispanicness and gayness would not have saved him from being rejected as Obama’s inaugural poet if he did not hold the accepted Democrat/Liberal view of America, the world, and in his case, the accepted view of Cuban exiles as cretins and Batistianos.

    One can argue all day about whether he is talented or deserving of any recognition; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But there is one thing no one can argue: Richard Blanco is no Reinaldo Arenas.

  5. Alberto, it’s a given Blanco had to be PC and Dem-friendly to even be considered, never mind chosen. My point was that, since all serious candidates would have met those criteria, other “qualifications” would come into play, such as ethnicity and sexual orientation. However, I admit that being a certain kind of Cuban, or Cubanoid, would also work in his favor as a “bonus.”

    As for his actual poetry, I have far better things to do than pore over his oeuvre, and the fact the Obama people liked it is definitely not a stimulus. At any rate, the poetry excerpt linked and briefly quoted above strikes me as prosaic, not to say pedestrian–“empty as hollow trees” is hardly a brilliant simile, let alone an original one. As for the “bile” business, I think I detect some bile myself, and not where he says it is. The purported “lies of lost wealth” bit may be more telling than he realizes–all true exiles have lost wealth beyond price: their homeland; their natural environment, culture and society; all manner of ties and affections, inevitably including loved ones left behind; in short, their heritage and birthright. Alas, a prosaic or embittered mind may not pause to reflect on that, though it’s plain as day–which is also a pedestrian simile, but then I don’t presume to be a poet.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Blanco’s poetry. When this news first broke, I researched his work and read a few of his poems. To put it bluntly, I was not impressed. I found nothing spectacular about his poetry even with the “cultural ties” we may have. But we both know that Blanco’s talent or lack thereof had nothing to do with his selection. What Obama wanted was someone or something that fits into his worldview, and Blanco, being a Hispanic, liberal, gay man who demonizes “those people” made him a perfect candidate.

    What can I say… Dios los cría y el diablo los junta…

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