Beacon Press: How to Love a Country
Login Cart

How to Love a Country

Poems

Author: Richard Blanco

A new collection from the renowned inaugural poet exploring immigration, gun violence, racism, LGBTQ issues, and more, in accessible and emotive verses

As presidential inaugural poet, memoirist, public speaker, educator, and advocate, Richard Blanco has crisscrossed the nation inviting communities to connect to the heart of human experience and our shared identity as a country. In this new collection of poems, his first in over seven years, Blanco continues to invite a conversation with all Americans. Through an oracular yet intimate and accessible voice, he addresses the complexities and contradictions of our nationhood and the unresolved sociopolitical matters that affect us all.

The poems form a mosaic of seemingly varied topics: the Pulse Nightclub massacre; an unexpected encounter on a visit to Cuba; the forced exile of 8,500 Navajos in 1868; a lynching in Alabama; the arrival of a young Chinese woman at Angel Island in 1938; the incarceration of a gifted writer; and the poet’s abiding love for his partner, who he is finally allowed to wed as a gay man. But despite each poem’s unique concern or occasion, all are fundamentally struggling with the overwhelming question of how to love this country.

Seeking answers, Blanco digs deep into the very marrow of our nation through poems that interrogate our past and present, grieve our injustices, and note our flaws, but also remember to celebrate our ideals and cling to our hopes. In the landmark poem “American Wandersong,” which forms the center of the book, the poet reveals himself to readers in a disarming and kinetic sequence of stanzas, striving to find his place amid the physical and emotional landscapes of our country.

Through this groundbreaking volume, Blanco unravels the very fabric of the American narrative and pursues a resolution to the inherent contradiction of our nation’s psyche and mandate: e pluribus unum (out of many, one). Charged with the utopian idea that no single narrative is more important than another, this book asserts that America could and ought someday to be a country where all narratives converge into one, a country we can all be proud to love and where we can all truly thrive.
Bookmark and Share
“This clear-seeing and forthright volume marks Blanco as a major, deeply relevant poet.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“Generous and deeply felt, the long prose poems in this moving new collection from presidential inaugural poet Blanco (after Looking for the Gulf Motel) help us understand what it means to cross a border . . . . Submit to the fierce pleasure of Blanco’s art.”
Library Journal

“Blanco’s power as a poet lies in the singular intimacy, structural craft, intoxicating imagery, and inner rhythms of his verse.”
New York Journal of Books

“Blanco’s contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers . . . Our Nation was built on the freedom of expression, and poetry has long played an important role in telling the story of our Union and illuminating the experiences that unite all people.”
—President Barack Obama

“At a time when we are once again debating our identity as Americans, this splendid collection of poems from a great storytelling poet is an absolute treasure that speaks to the things that hold us together despite the things that split us apart.”
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership in Turbulent Times

“From a country courting implosion, a country at odds with its own brutal and breathless backstory, a country with a name that sparks both expletive and prayer, rises Richard Blanco’s muscular, resolute voice—sounding stanzas of the confounded heart and clenched fist, of indignation and insurrection. This is an urgent gathering of sweet, fractured, insistent American noise—the stories that feed us and the stories we’d rather forget—re-teaching us all the right ways there are to love a country that so often forgets how to love us back.”
—Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art

“This new collection is vibrant, tragic, exhilarating, deeply in love with people and their stories and heartbreakingly engaged with our struggling nation. These are poems for every season, for large and small moments and very much for our time.”
—Amy Bloom, author of White Houses

“A frank and wonderful collection that calls America a work in progress, that describes the poet himself as a grade school bully who loved the other boy he hit and one could readily cry with him now, everything is alive here in his book: the Rio Grande as sentient and knowing, all this with a jazz musician’s timing. Richard Blanco writes about the elusive poundingness of love.”
—Eileen Myles, author of Evolution

“In these times of hate, we need poets who speak of love. Richard Blanco’s new collection is a visionary hymn of love to the human beings who comprise what we call this country. Whether he speaks in the voice of an immigrant who came here long ago, or the very river an immigrant crosses to come here today, Blanco sings and sings. This, the song says, is the way out—for all of us.”
—Martín Espada, author of Vivas to Those Who Have Failed

“Richard Blanco has risen to the challenge of writing poetry that serves our nation. This is both a responsibility and an honor. I am moved, proud, overjoyed, and inspired.”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“Powerful, personal, and full of life, these poems delve into the complex intricacies of what it means to call the United States home. A masterful poet who is clear-eyed and full of heart, Blanco explores the country’s haunted past while offering a bright hope for the future.”
—Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things

“In this timely collection, Richard Blanco masterfully embraces his role as a civic poet, confronting our nation’s riddled history in the light of conscience. At once personal and political, these lyric narratives decry injustice and proclaim our hopes.”
—Carolyn Forché, author of The Country Between Us

“There is a uniting oneness to these passionate and remarkable poems, each finely wrought line a bridge from one heart to another, a love song of this burdened earth and all its flawed inhabitants. Richard Blanco is this century’s Walt Whitman.”
—Andre Dubus III, author of Gone So Long

"My Father In English"

First half of his life lived in Spanish: the long syntax
of las montañas that lined his village, the rhyme
of sol with his soul—a Cuban alma—that swayed
with las palmas, the sharp rhythm of his machete
cutting through caña, the syllables of his canarios
that sung into la brisa of the island home he left
to spell out the second half of his life in English—
the vernacular of New York City sleet, neon, glass—
and the brick factory where he learned to polish
steel twelve hours a day. Enough to save enough
to buy a used Spanish-English dictionary he kept
bedside like a bible—studied fifteen new words
after his prayers each night, then practiced them
on us the next day: Buenos días, indeed, my family.
Indeed más coffee. Have a good day today, indeed
and again in the evening: Gracias to my bella wife,
indeed, for dinner. Hicistes tu homework, indeed?
La vida is indeed difícil. Indeed did indeed become
his favorite word, which, like the rest of his new life,
he never quite grasped: overused and misused often
to my embarrassment. Yet the word I most learned
to love and know him through: indeed, the exile who
tried to master the language he chose to master him,
indeed, the husband who refused to say I love you
in English to my mother, the man who died without
true translation. Indeed, meaning: in fact/en efecto,
meaning: in reality/de hecho, meaning to say now
what I always meant to tell him in both languages:
thank you/gracias for surrendering the past tense
of your life so that I might conjugate myself here
in the present of this country, in truth/así es, indeed.

Declaration of Inter-Dependence

I

Election Year
Dreaming a Wall
Complaint of El Río Grande
Como Tú / Like You / Like Me
Staring at Aspens: A History Lesson
Letter from Yí Cheung
Leaving in the Rain: Limerick, Ireland
Island Body
What We Didn’t Know About Cuba
Matters of the Sea
Mother Country
My Father in English
El Americano in the Mirror
Using Country in a Sentence

II

American Wandersong

III

Imaginary Exile
November Eyes
Let’s Remake America Great
Easy Lynching on Herndon Avenue
Poetry Assignment #4: What Do You Miss Most?
St. Louis: Prayer Before Dawn
Until We Could
Between [Another Door]
One Pulse—One Poem
Seventeen Funerals
Remembering Boston Strong
America the Beautiful Again
What I Know of Country
St. Louis: Prayer at Dawn
Now Without Me
And So We All Fall Down

Cloud Anthem

Author’s Note



How to Love a Country

ISBN: 978-080704307-3
Publication Date: 3/24/2020
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $14.00
Format: Paperback
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: March 2020
(Backorder policy)
Qty:
Also Available In: