In his inaugural poem 'One Today,' Cuban-American Richard Blanco writes, "I have a dream, we keep dreaming."
The poet-turned-memoirist stopped by Boston Public Radio to talk about his dream of being a "real" American, and the moment in the writing of 'One Today' when he realized he already was.
Blanco's new memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood retraces his steps back through the complexity of his childhood, negotiating the contradictions of being gay in the machismo-driven Cuban community, and being at once, an engineer and a poet. It is unapologetically multidimensional. Within the particularities of his own story, Blanco locates the universal themes of any childhood: becoming and belonging. His narrative dwells on the characters that shaped him, and the moments that transformed him, but also the seemingly insignificant moments of vast personal growth.
Blanco spent his childhood chasing the dream of being American. "America is some other little boy,” he thought, as he watched The Brady Bunch, and begged his homophobic, xenophobic grandmother to serve a traditional Thanksgiving turkey. He yearned for a place around the pilgrims proverbial table. Not realizing that the story of the pilgrims is an immigrant story in of itself. "In some ways," he realizes, "mine is an American dream story."
What he found most compelling about his own journey "is all these layers of identity, and identity formation that sort of cross and intersect…I can't separate who I am as a gay man, and who I am as an engineer, who I am as a poet, who I am as a Cuban, who I am as an American." The Prince of Los Cocuyos doesn’t fight the nuance of identities, but embraces it. It "looks at how those things collide, intersect, and diverge, and in doing so, it is a recipe that is at once unique, and uniquely American.
'One Today' closes with the image of "all of us— facing the stars. Hope—a new constellation, waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it—together." He reminds us that our stories all unfold beneath the same stars, The Prince of Los Cocuyos concludes by reminding us that we can't stay anywhere forever. That it is always "time to go."
>> For our full conversation with poet Richard Blanco, click the audio above.