“My mother … was seven months pregnant with me when she left Cuba, and at that time, in 1968, since there were no diplomatic relations, everybody had to go through what they called a third country, so we ended up in Spain. Forty-five days later I was born, and a few weeks after that, we got in a plane and immigrated once more to New York City. So by the time I was about 2 or 3 months old, I had figuratively and literally been in three countries, and could probably have claimed citizenship in any one of the three at that moment. And then eventually when I was about 3 or 4 we settled down in Miami. And it’s kind of, you know, as I look back on my life, as we all do, you kind of think, ‘Is this some kind … of foreshadowing, of course, of what my work as a poet would be obsessed with?’ This whole idea of place and identity and what’s home and what’s not home, and which is in some ways such an American question that we’ve been asking since, you know, since [Walt] Whitman, trying to put that finger on America.”
While it is indeed moving to see a Latino, gay man of my own age reading in the ceremony (It shows how far we have come), what is truly moving is the man’s poetry itself. I mean I am all for diversity, but I would not be happy if we sacrificed quality for it. We haven’t done that with Mr. Blanco. Below is his reading of “My Mother Picking Produce,” from his website, where you can enjoy more.
MOTHER PICKING PRODUCE
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.
through crumbling pyramids of golden mangos,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.
and what I think is this, a new poem about her–
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,
- Cuban American named poet for Obama inauguration (babalublog.com)
- Richard Blanco, Gay Latino, Named Inaugural Poet (advocate.com)
- Openly Gay Cuban Poet Richard Blanco To Read At Obama Inauguration (queerty.com)
- Obama Selects Gay Latino Poet Richard Blanco to Read at Inauguration Ceremony: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Richard Blanco Will Be First Latino Inaugural Poet (npr.org)
- Poet Richard Blanco’s road from Miami to presidential inauguration (miamiherald.com)
- Richard Blanco the first gay, first Hispanic, youngest inauguration poet (washingtonpost.com)
- Inaugural Poet 2013, Richard Blanco, Announced By Presidential Inaugural Committee (huffingtonpost.com)