Richard Blanco

Spanish-born American poet

Richard Blanco (born February 15, 1968) is an American poet, public speaker, author and civil engineer.

Richard Blanco in 2013


  • I would first need to acknowledge that the mere act of creating something that questions the world and one’s life in it, that exercises one’s imagination, or that even pens something simply for the sake of beauty, is a kind of politics because it is determined to create awareness of some kind in some context…
  • One of the real gifts of the inauguration was realizing that my story, my mother’s story, the immigrant story, the gay story, that really they’re an authentic piece of the American story…Until the honor of being asked to speak for my country, I wasn’t quite American yet. I wasn’t Peter Brady. America felt like this other place. ... but I realized: This is my country. This is where I belong. This is as valid to me as a gay man, as a Cuban man, as it is for anybody else in America. I think it’s going to change my art and make me write about the other ways I can claim America.
  • I make reference in my writing to many of the Afro-Cuban deities and superstitions that migrated into Catholicism in the Caribbean from the West African religious practices of Yoruba. This resulted in a more fatalistic and mythological "brand" of Catholicism that holds a blurrier line between the living and the dead, between the "here" and the "after." This spiritual stance I think is reflected in many of my characters…
  • What’s more, I realized that I had an artistic duty and an emotional right to speak to, for, and about millions like myself from all walks of life who felt as marginalized as I did, given the various sociopolitical issues that historically and presently haunt America. All this unearthing culminated in the new collection, How to Love a Country, which indeed focuses on the intersectionality between the private and public self, the personal and political posture, and the individual and the collective identity of nationhood…
  • I really didn't end up coming out until much later in life ... and what really fascinated me as a writer and as an investigator is, how does that happen? How is it that moment by moment the next notch of courage, the next notch of self-understanding — even though you know you're gay at 12, 13, 14 [years old], those words can't even enter your mind. You can't even have the vocabulary; you don't say "Gee, I think I'm gay." No, it doesn't happen that way…
  • Revise, revise, revise—a poem is never done. That’s the mantra ingrained in most of us. While, of course, I do believe revision is key, I also believe there are other notions to consider. I’ve found that revision for the sole sake of revision is usually a waste of time. I don’t revise unless I am inspired to revise with some direction…
  • In poetry, my grandmother is much more vicious and hurtful…In the book, she comes across as this likable character. And she was! She was always the life of the party, a fun-loving person. ... In the poetry my mother is more of a martyr, always suffering from leaving her whole family in Cuba. But in the book she’s like this control freak, like this warden of the house. I realized that was her psychological response to the loss she had experienced: She wanted to control life. She couldn’t tolerate one more loss in her life.”
  • I want to turn metrophobes (people with a fear of poetry) into metromaniacs. I think the fear goes back to the way poetry is taught. I think we should approach poetry more like music or art. Instead, it’s shrouded in mystery. Like anything new that you try, you start and fail and then improve. You have to keep practicing. Creating can be a wonderful space, but it can be terrifying, and you just have to accept it and dive in. Eventually, you get into the flow, and it gets a little easier.
  • For the most part, I don’t know where a poem will lead, but I’ll have a sense of the theme or texture to start with. It can be an image, a quote, or a memory, and I’ll slowly start seeing what develops on the page. Typically, when I start holding strongly to an idea, it doesn’t turn out well because there’s no discovery. Finding the structure is like tuning an instrument until you hear the right note. And with free verse, every poem has to find its own internal logic and structure. You figure that out during the process.
  • Raised in a working-class, immigrant family, I didn’t have access to poetry. I want to write poetry that my mother can read, or poetry that I would have loved as a little boy. I think of myself as a poet of the people. I argue against the idea that if a poem is accessible, it’s not complex. Accessible is not synonymous with simple.
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