poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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)

Mother Country

To love a country as if you’ve lost one: 1968,
my mother leaves Cuba for America, a scene
I imagine as if standing in her place—one foot
inside a plane destined for a country she knew
only as a name, a color on a map, or glossy photos
from drugstore magazines, her other foot anchored
to the platform of her patria, her hand clutched
around one suitcase, taking only what she needs
most: hand-colored photographs of her family,
her wedding veil, the doorknob of her house,
a jar of dirt from her backyard, goodbye letters
she won’t open for years. The sorrowful drone
of engines, one last, deep breath of familiar air
she’ll take with her, one last glimpse at all
she’d ever known: the palm trees wave goodbye
as she steps onto the plane, the mountains shrink
from her eyes as she lifts off into another life.

To love a country as if you’ve lost one: I hear her
—once upon a time—reading picture books
over my shoulder at bedtime, both of us learning
English, sounding out words as strange as the talking
animals and fair-haired princesses in their pages.
I taste her first attempts at macaroni-n-cheese
(but with chorizo and peppers), and her shame
over Thanksgiving turkeys always dry, but countered
by her perfect pork pernil and garlic yuca. I smell
the rain of those mornings huddled as one under
one umbrella waiting for the bus to her ten-hour days
at the cash register. At night, the zzz-zzz of her sewing
her own blouses, quinceañera dresses for her nieces
still in Cuba, guessing at their sizes, and the gowns
she’d sell to neighbors to save for a rusty white sedan—
no hubcaps, no air-conditioning, sweating all the way
through our first vacation to Florida theme parks.

To love a country as if you’ve lost one: as if
it were you on a plane departing from America
forever, clouds closing like curtains on your country,
the last scene in which you’re a madman scribbling
the names of your favorite flowers, trees, and birds
you’d never see again, your address and phone number
you’d never use again, the color of your father’s eyes,
your mother’s hair, terrified you could forget these.
To love a country as if I was my mother last spring
hobbling, insisting I help her climb all the way up
to the U.S. Capitol, as if she were here before you today
instead of me, explaining her tears, cheeks pink
as the cherry blossoms coloring the air that day when
she stopped, turned to me, and said: You know, mijo,
it isn’t where you’re born that matters, it’s where
you choose to die—that’s your country.

Copyright © 2019 by Richard Blanco. From How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019). Reprinted with permission by Beacon Press.

Copyright © 2019 by Richard Blanco. From How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019). Reprinted with permission by Beacon Press.

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 the forthcomming How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019). In 2013, Blanco was selected to read at Barack Obama's second Presidential Inauguration. He lives in Bethel, Maine.

by this poet

poem

I.

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars

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