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How to Love a Country

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4.32  ·  Rating details ·  319 ratings  ·  60 reviews
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 coun
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Hardcover, 112 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Beacon Press
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Julie Ehlers
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, free-library
Here's a good book for anyone who thinks poetry is inaccessible or unnecessary.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
These poems are very timely, from a "Presidential Inaugural Poet" who read a poem at Obama's inauguration. How do you love a country that sometimes hates you, or hasn't made your life easy or safe? Richard Blanco explores these ideas through his poetry from several angles personal to him. His anthem for marriage equality, Until We Could, which is probably his best known poem, was a companion to the fight in the year or so preceding the Supreme Court decision.

I hadn't heard of Blanco before but I
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Alicia Bayer
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book and plan to get it for my 19 y/o for Christmas. Here's what I wrote about it on IG from my poetry account:

"Late night poetry reading and highly recommended. Blanco was Obama’s poet laureate and is a gay son of Cuban immigrants. His first book in 6 years is a collection of responses to Trump’s election, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Boston marathon bombing, and other events since then, along with poignant poems about his own life and others."

I ended up reading some to my husb
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Teresa Whiteman
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Richard Blanco is the real deal. His poems are visionary and lyrical, and yes, political. Because when the world is split so widely and so unmistakably into haves and have nots, rich and poor, colored and white, there is nothing that can be written about the human condition anymore, it seems, that *isn't* a political statement. We are lost to each other, in an age when even our ability to agree on basic human rights seems so challenging. Blanco's poems advocate for the unity of humanity by showi ...more
Susan Barber
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Blanco - insert several heart eyed emojis here.

This book is for those who say poetry isn't accessible, or relevant, or patriotic. My best description of Blanco is a modern combination of Whitman and Hughes (and he claims he's inspired by both of them in the Author's Note). He's loving a country yet dreaming of a better country. He confronts problems within a country head on but chooses to see the good in the present. The poems are both simple and complex.

My favorites:
"Dreaming a Wall"
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Evie Bauman
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"We’re the cure for hatred caused by despair. We’re the good morning of a bus driver who remembers our name, the tattooed man who gives up his seat on the subway. We’re every door held open with a smile when we look into each other’s eyes the way we behold the moon. We’re the moon. We’re the promise of one people, one breath declaring to one another: I see you. I need you. I am you."
David
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Blanco raises a patriotic torch of hope for America through his collection of personal and occasional poems. In "What I Know of Country, " he writes "to know a country takes all we know of love." Blanco's poems sing of his love for his parents, his partner, and his country. Blanco's vision is not distorted by his passion, but clarified by reflection and study of recent and historical tragedies. Blanco encourages his readers to be part of a resilient future.
Gily
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love. Love. Love. I don't usually read poetry without Sivan reading it for me, but I heard Richard Blanco talk at UMassmed School and wanted more. I listen to him reading his poetry and enjoyed it I found myself in his words. Recommended
Claudia
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Richard Blanco is one of the best poets of our time and, no, I don't think that is an overstatement. He is an incredible poet not just because he can write poetry well but because of what he chooses to write about. This collection of poems is like the US, a melting pot of the stories and struggles of marginalized communities - marginalized on the basis of race, sexual orientation, immigration status, class and more. This book is invaluable because of how perfectly it encapsulates these turbulent ...more
Vshipp
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love Blanco’s poetry. In particular this collection had me tearing up throughout - he covers the Boston bombing, Pulse nightclub shooting, the beauty of being an immigrant in the US - the hope and opportunities.... and the particularly toxic environment for undocumented persons under the Trump administration. Eager to read more of his collections. His poetry forces you to slow down, reread and absorb. Much needed.
Jorge
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful collection of poems. Blanco captures the essence of what it is to be an American, and an immigrant in America. Each poem tells a story, at times tragic and sad, at other times filled with love and hope. In this book an immigrant poet sings with great love what it means to be American. Highly recommended.
Lynsy
This was an emotional roller coaster - well, mostly the trough before the crest. Blanco speaks for so many voices in this slim volume, and he does it beautifully. There was some prose poetry in here, which I'm not the biggest fan of, but there were others with lyrical refrains that flowed really well. read my full review here. ...more
Xeni
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I’m obsessed with this newest collection by Blanco. His writing is poignant and honest delivering a unique voice that is essential to understanding modern America. These poems have made me cry and have strangely brought me some peace. Thank you, Blanco. These poems are a true blessing.
Laura
May 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I picked this up because I had read a poem of Blanco's in Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color that I loved. This collection did not grab me the way that poem did. It felt too sanitized to me, too neat, too polite. The strongest poems were the few that delve into Blanco's own experiences, the personal poems written from his life. But most of the rest of the poems didn't feel alive in the same way. They felt rote, almost, and though I could sense the emotion underneath the wor ...more
Hannah (TheHannieCorner)
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
This is a beautiful collection of poetry that will stick with me for a long time to come. Richard Blanco has a gift for being able to use his writing to get to the root of a number of major issues facing the world today. The poems are easy to read and the messages are powerful, making this a great collection for people who are trying to get into poetry for the first time. Everything here is incredibly politically motivated, however, so if reading is a form of escapism from current events, then t ...more
Melissa
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning.
Claire
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Once again the 5th Presidential Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, has provided us with a selection of poems that capture the physical, imagined and psychological dividing lines that have haunted and continue to haunt America. His body of work encompasses the unresolved issues that continue to affect us a whole; issues such as race, gender, sexuality, creed and immigration.

This latest work is the result of the poet's profound exploration of his own questions and artistic duty to write his poetry as
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Bernie Gourley
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book takes one on a roller coaster ride of insight into the author’s relationship with his country. At times the tone is hopeful and at other times seething or even vitriolic. Unlike many of the angry works of political verse of late, this one sometimes reflects that most beautiful of pragmatic truths: one can’t truly love anything if one can’t embrace it imperfections and all. As it happens, this wide sway in tone is partly the result of these poems being collected from various sources. Ha ...more
Kelly Sedinger
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2020-reads
Having decided that I should read more collections by contemporary poets, I checked this out of the library...and now I'm stuck in a holding pattern until the library can reopen. Oh well, at least I picked a good one. I find myself attuned to Blanco's poems, even if our respective life experiences are nothing alike; I am deeply sympathetic to his poetic portrayal of an America that seems balanced on the edge of a knife, on one side of which is a possibly amazing egalitarian future and on the oth ...more
Kelly
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“To love a country as if you’ve lost one: as if it were you on a plane departing from America forever, clouds closing like curtains on your country, the last scene in which you’re a madman scribbling the names of your favorite flowers, trees, and birds you’d never see again, your address and phone number you’d never use again, the color of your father’s eyes, your mother’s hair, terrified you could forget these.”

In your face collection of poems dealing with hatred, racism, and the struggles of o
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Lanette Sweeney
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A necessary book from one of America's great poets. The first half recounts immigrant stories, including, most movingly, his mother's, in neat mostly iambic pentameter (some longer some shorter) stanzas, part two is one long prose poem, part three contains reactions to the election of Trump-- and these are my favorite poems: the sarcastic Let's Remake America Great, and the haunting November Eyes, in which his neighbor who has been to his barbecues is wearing a Trump pin, letting him know she do ...more
Aaron Bellamy
Jan 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
A true testament to the state of American poetry.

The simple platitudes are mostly nice, and when not, at least mean well. The handful of poems that strive only to tell a brief story are mostly successful.

However, sophomoric and didactic make a dreadful combo, and the poems themselves are unreadably both, with a hefty dose of high-school self-centered drama splashed in.

Blanco means well, and I'm happy he's had great success. He seems like a very likable person. But this isn't poetry. At least not
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Ives Phillips
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could just weep from the beauty and tragedy and hope of this collection. I've fallen in love with the heart and soul Blanco had put into these pages. There's a sickening, heartbreaking, and too familiar attachment I feel to Germaine's poem assignment; and when I read "Remembering Boston Strong" and "One Pulse -- One Poem", it awoke the latent fear and grieving I felt the first time I heard the news of the bombing and the shootings, and encouraged me to keep going on and hold on to the love tha ...more
Na
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Blanco's "How to Love a Country" is a wonderful expression of not only his personal struggles and triumphs, but an intelligent observation of the American ego(s). His poetry tackles racism, sexism, culture, tribalism, and what it is to be human. Poems such as "Easy Lynching on Herndon Avenue" capture the dark parts of our American story; but; where this book really succeeds is offering the reader a taste of optimism within the American human condition. "How to Love a Country" is a book that shou ...more
lisa
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I ended up reading this alongside Good Talk by Mira Jacob, and it was a nice addendum. The poems are decent, nothing heart-pounding, nothing to punch you hard, but good, heartfelt poems about the different facets of a country that has risen to great heights, and fallen to the bottom of the mud within in the last ten years. It's a good book to give to your friend who claims they don't like poetry, or who doesn't read much poetry.
Tory Cross
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 - This is a beautiful small book of poems. Each of his poems on borders were incredibly beautiful and moving. I also cried so hard during his poem on Pulse and the poem Seventeen. The poem on making America great again hit like a hammer and it was so good. The only reason I dropped down half a star is that a lot of his work in the end focused on how we can't keep being divisive to some extent and I find that flawed.
Emily
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Beautiful imagery and thought provoking subject matter. At first the poet's voice came across pompous or pretentious, but I soon realized it was more of a confidence in their style and flow (and in this collection--both vary, which is refreshing). Emotionally connecting with readers can often be difficult, but, for me--Blanco's poetry crosses many bridges which allow for a strong bond with anyone willing to set aside their own perspectives to feel another's potential experience.
Nancy
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My goal this year was to read more poetry, but most of what I have read were the older poems like those that were read to me in my youth which often reference people, places or things outside of my experience. Blanco is compared to Walt Whitman with his free verse, and I like Whitman's poems, so I picked up this book and Wow! Every poem's message was clear and relevant to me. Obama chose well in picking Blanco as his inaugural poet.
Dev
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very polished collection of poetry. I would expect no less from Obama's Presidential Inaugural Poet. The focus is on America - current events and Blanco's relationship to his country. I definitely enjoyed the book more than many of the others I've read and I think the first poems comparing the current political climate to gardening were inspired. They were the best of the lot, in my opinion.
Jennifer Collins
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
In this collection of poems that are as powerful as they are timely, Blanco's work manages to marry hope for a better future with critiques of the present. Some of these poems come like a steel-toed kick to the gut, even as lyricism gives way to clever--and sometimes painful--truth, while others are quieter, but no less powerful for that apparent peace.

This is a timely collection that is worth reading, teaching, and sharing, and it's one I'll come back to. Absolutely recommended.
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Richard Blanco was born in Madrid in 1968, immigrating as an infant with his Cuban-exile family to the U.S. He was raised and educated in Miami, earning a B.S. in civil engineering and a M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University.

In 2013, Blanco was chosen to serve as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, following in the footsteps as such great writers as Robert Fr
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