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Literature and the Arts



Recommended Reading In Literature and the Arts

Anarcha Speaks
For Want of Water
How to Love a Country
When I Walk Through That Door, I Am

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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

Selected by Barack Obama as the fifth Presidential Inaugural Poet in US history, Richard Blanco is the award-winning author of two memoirs and four poetry collections. His body of work and advocacy are characterized by his personal negotiation of cultural identity and universal themes of place and belonging. He currently serves as the first-ever Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets and is a member of the Obama Foundation’s advisory council.
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How to Love a Country:Poems

"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.

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