He introduced himself as someone who was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States--meaning his mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid where he was born. Forty-five days later, the family emigrated to New York City, then eventually to Miami where he was raised and educated.
His poems are profound, often funny and very assessable. He laughs at himself, writes poems about his Cuban grandmother who had trouble accepting her gay grandson whom it was clear she loved. "I'd rather have a granddaughter who's a whore than a grandson who's a faggot like you." He made the audience laugh and he made us tear up.
But most exciting to me was the way he is bringing poetry into the lives of the common folk--just ordinary working people who may have believed poetry something only weird people or intellectuals appreciated. Blanco read before 850,000 people at the Inauguration, and millions more heard him on television. He read again at Fenway Park for a fund raiser for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. And, according to Blanco, no one raced out of the park or put their fingers in their ears. Poetry is meant to be heard. It says things that are impossible to say any other way. And Blanco is paving the way for other poets to be heard. I am one of those other poets and for all my life, I have longed to be heard--really heard.
His reading gave this poet hope and the realization that it is a great time to be a poet. And when he finished reading, the audience stood and gave him the standing ovation he deserved. WOW. The applause was so loud, you would have thought him a rock star, a stand up comedian, or a senator about to run for President.
I recently learned that I'd been nominated for Oregon's Poet Laureate. I don't expect to win, as there are more qualified poets who have dedicated their lives to teaching and writing poetry, but I am deeply honored to have been recommended. My first collection of poems will come out this spring with an accompanying CD.
Yes, it is a great year for poetry. I hope you'll read some (maybe even mine) and find the magic for yourself.