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Election Year by Richard Blanco

About this poet

Richard Blanco is the Education Ambassador of the Academy of American Poets. In his role, he helps champion the organization's free resources for teachersstudent projects, and other education initiatives. 

Born on February 15, 1968, in Madrid, Spain, Blanco grew up in Miami, where he received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering as well as an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University.

He is the author of the poetry collections How to Love a Country, forthcoming from Beacon Press in 2019; Boundaries (Two Ponds Press, 2017), featuring photography by Jacob Bond Hessler; Matters of the Sea/Cosas del Mar (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016); Looking for the Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012); Directions to the Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005), winner of the 2006 PEN/American Center Beyond Margins Award; and City of a Hundred Fires (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998), winner of the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett National Poetry Prize. He is also the author of a memoir, The Prince of los Cocuyos (Ecco Press, 2014), a Lambda Literary Award–winning account of his childhood and adolescence coming to terms with his sexual, national, and cultural identities, and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (Beacon Press, 2013). His inaugural poem, One Today, was also published as a children's book illustrated by Dav Pilkey (Little, Brown, 2015).

Sandra Cisneros describes Blanco's poems as "sad, tender, and filled with longing. Like an old photograph, a saint's statue worn away by the devout, a bolero on the radio on a night full of rain. Me emocionan. There is no other way to say it. They emotion me."

He is the recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, a Residency Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the John Ciardi Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Blanco has taught at various schools, including American University, Georgetown University, and Wesleyan University, and has been an artist in residence at Colby College’s Lunder Institute for American Art. He is currently a distinguished visiting professor at Florida International University.   

In 2013, Richard Blanco was selected to read at Barack Obama's second Presidential Inauguration. He lives in Bethel, Maine.


As Educator Ambassador, Richard Blanco is available for speaking engagements and to meet with teachers. For more information, contact Alison Granucci at Blue Flower Arts.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Boundaries (Two Ponds Press, 2017)
Matters of the Sea/Cosas del Mar (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)
Looking for the Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012)
Directions to the Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005)
City of a Hundred Fires (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

Prose
For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (Beacon Press, 2013)
The Prince of los Cocuyos (Ecco Press, 2014)

Election Year

The last ghostly patch of snow slips away—

with it—winter’s peaceful abandon melts 
into a memory, and you remember the mire 
of muck just outside your kitchen window 
is the garden you’ve struggled and promised 
to keep. Jeans dyed black by years of dirt, 
you step into the ache of your boots again, 
clear dead spoils, trowel the soil for new life. 

The sun shifts on the horizon, lights up 
the dewed spider webs like chandeliers. 
Clouds begin sailing in, cargoed with rain 
loud enough to rouse the flowers into 
a race for color: the rouged tulips clash 
with the noble lilies flaunting their petals 
at the brazen puffs of allium, the mauve 
tongues of the iris gossip sweet-nothings 
into the wind, trembling frail petunias. 

Mornings over coffee, news of the world, 
you catch the magic act of hummingbirds— 
appearing, disappearing—the eye tricked 
into seeing how the garden flowers thrive 
in shared soil, drink from the same rainfall, 
governed by one sun, yet grow divided 
in their beds where they’ve laid for years. 
In the ruts between bands of color, ragweed 
poke their dastard heads, dandelions cough 
their poison seeds, and thistles like daggers 
draw their spiny leaves and take hold.

The garden loses ground, calls you to duty 
again: with worn gloves molded by the toll 
of your toil, and armed with sheers, you tear 
into the weeds, snip head-bowed blooms, 
prop their struggling stems. Butterfly wings 
wink at you, hinting it’s all a ruse, as you rest 
on your deck proud of your calloused palms 
and pained knees, trusting all you’ve done 
is true enough to keep the garden abloom.

But overnight, a vine you’ve never battled 
creeps out of the dark furrows, scales 
the long necks of the sunflowers, chokes 
every black-eyed Susan, and coils around 
the peonies, beheading them all. You snap 
apart its greedy tendrils, cast your hands 
back into the dirt, pull at its ruthless roots. 
Still, it returns with equal fury and claim: 
the red poppies scream, the blue asters 
gasp for air, strangled in its vile clasp 
that lives by killing everything it touches.

The sun’s eye closes behind mountains, but 
you lose sleep tonight, uncertain if the garden 
is meant to inevitably survive or die, or if 
it matters—one way or the other—with or 
without you. Maybe it’s not just the garden 
you worry about, but something we call hope 
pitted against despair, something we can only 
speak of by speaking to ourselves about flowers, 
weeds, and hummingbirds; spiders, vines, and 
a garden tended under a constitution of stars 
we must believe in, splayed across our sky.

This poem originally appeared in The Boston Globe on November 6, 2016. Copyright © 2016 by Richard Blanco. Used with permission of the author.

This poem originally appeared in The Boston Globe on November 6, 2016. Copyright © 2016 by Richard Blanco. Used with permission of the author.

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco is the Education Ambassador of the Academy of American Poets. In his role, he helps champion the organization's free resources for teachers, student projects, and other education initiatives. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Matters of the Sea/Cosas del Mar (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) and two memoirs, including The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood (Ecco Press, 2014). In 2013, Blanco was selected to read at Barack Obama's second Presidential Inauguration. He lives in Bethel, Maine.

by this poet

poem

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration
January 21, 2013

 

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then

poem

What I’ve written for you, I have always written
in English, my language of silent vowel endings
never translated into your language of silent h’s.
               Lo que he escrito para ti, siempre lo he escrito
               en inglés, en mi lengua llena de vocales mudas

poem
Not a study or a den, but El Florida 
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view 
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze 
laden with the brown-sugar scent 
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun 
both