A Public Poet’s Private Selves
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Published in: March-April 2024 issue.

New and Selected Poems
by Richard Blanco
Beacon Press. 200 pages, $25.95

CUBAN-AMERICAN WRITER Richard Blanco is a quintessentially modern poet, with promotional links throughout the social network and his own life as his primary subject. Add to this his gold-plated credentials as President Obama’s inaugural poet and a National Humanities Medal from Joe Biden, and we have the perfect poster boy for modern poetry. Homeland of My Body is a substantial compilation of poems from four earlier collections, along with many new poems. Blanco includes references to his private life in many of his works, but he does not write primarily about gay life. Instead, it is his Cuban ancestry and family members that shine through like a Havana sunrise. Ancestry, family history, and Cuban customs are so much at the heart of his œuvre that the theme of gay love is moved to the periphery.

            That said, Blanco does sometimes write about love and relationships, and this more private side runs through the book like a lovely, shaded stream, slowly emerging from his Cuban roots.

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Alan Contreras is a writer and consultant who lives in Eugene, OR.