Richard Blanco - Author and Poet

Richard Blanco


Two Ponds Press, 2017

Boundaries by poet & author, Richard Blanco

Boundaries is a collaborative project between Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco and contemporary landscape photographer Jacob Bond Hessler. Blanco’s poems and Hessler’s photographs together investigate the visible and invisible boundaries of race, gender, class, and ethnicity, among many others.

Boundaries challenges the physical, imagined, and psychological dividing lines—both historic and current—that shadow America and perpetuate an us vs. them mindset by inciting irrational fears, hate, and prejudice. In contrast to the current narrowing definition of an America with very clear-cut boundaries, Blanco and Hessler cross and erase borders. As artists, they tear down barriers to understanding by pushing boundaries and exposing them for what they truly are—fabrications for the sake of manifesting power and oppression pitted against our hopes of indeed becoming a boundary-less nation in a boundary-less world.

Edition of 300. Copies 1-50 are deluxe editions that contain a Jacob Hessler photograph printed on aluminum and a page of typescript poetry, with handwritten corrections by Richard Blanco. These are housed in a special clamshell box made for the edition at Claudia Cohen bookbindery, where they were bound by hand. Copies 51-300 are signed, numbered and housed in a slipcase.

Available exclusively through Two Ponds Press. All proceeds support Two Ponds’s continued work in fine-press publishing.

Read Excerpts

Foreword: The poet of The Others by George Ramos

In the days surrounding President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, many of us really believed that change and equality were at hand. I met Richard Blanco back then, when hope was a possibility for a brief moment, when he became the poet of the others. He was the first Hispanic, the first immigrant, the first openly gay man, and the youngest person ever to be selected as the United States’ presidential inaugural poet.

Those of us who were once outsiders can fully understand the complexities, and the unexpected privilege, of belonging to a new country. It is like a first love: passionate, unmatched, clearly physical. In his inaugural poem “One Today,” Richard dared to speak the
words “together” and “all of us.” Today, his brave words feel as if they were written many
decades ago.

Yet, that same courage is as present as ever in his new book Boundaries, a collaborative project with photographer Jacob Hessler. Richard is not afraid to get into politics, to go to Cuba, to face walls. Countries are inventions of our imagination; therefore, we can do whatever we want with them. We can create generous, tolerant nations. But we can also fill them with hate and demons.

When I first read Richard’s poem “Dreaming a Wall,” something broke inside me. Again. Yet, I thanked him. I like it when poets get muddy, when they seem to find no salvation. Because, when they do, they fight harder for all of us. Likewise, Jacob’s image of the wall in Tijuana that scar that bleeds between Mexico and the United States—feels as if it’s slowly slipping away, disappearing towards the ocean (wishful thinking, perhaps).

Devoid of people, Jacob’s photographs feel eternal. They are like rocks in a river, little symbols of stability in a world that is constantly changing. And Richard, an earthy poet, connected to our sweat and dreams, gives words to those who don’t have a single breath to spare. Against the darkness, he rhymes hope. Together in this book, Richard and Jacob are our partners, extending their hands to us at a time when we need it the most.

Dreaming A Wall

He hates his neighbors’ flowers, claims his
are redder, bluer, whiter than theirs, believes
his bees work harder, his soil richer, blacker.
He hears birds sing sweeter in his trees, taller
and fuller, too, but not enough to screen out
the nameless faces next door that he calls
liars, thieves who’d steal his juicier fruit, kill
for his wetter rain and brighter sun. He keeps
a steely eye on them, mocks the too cheery
colors of their homes, too small and too close
to his own, painted white, with room to spare.
He curses the giggles of their children always
barefoot in the yard, chasing their yappy dogs.
He wishes them dead. Closes his blinds. Refuses
to let light from their windows pollute his eyes
with their lives. Denies their silhouettes dining
at the kitchen table, laughing in the living room,
the goodnight kisses through every bedroom.
Slouched in his couch, grumbling over the news
he dismisses as fake, he changes the channel
to an old cowboy western. Amid the clamor
of gunshots he dozes off thinking of his dream
where he stakes a line between him and all
his neighbors, stabs the ground as he would
their chests. Forms a footing cast in blood-red
earth, bends steel bars as he would their bones
with his bare fists and buries them in concrete.
Mortar mixed thick with anger, each brick laid
heavy with revenge, he smiles as he finishes
the last course high enough to imagine them
more miserable and lonely than him alone
behind his wall, worshiping his greener lawn,
praising his fresher air, under his bluer, bluer sky.

Cloud Anthem

Until we are clouds that tear like bread but
mend like bones. Until we weave each other
like silk sheets shrouding mountains, or bear
gales that shear us. Until we soften our hard
edges, free to become any shape imaginable:
a rose or an angel crafted by the breeze like
papier-mâché or a lion or dragon like marble
chiseled by gusts. Until we scatter ourselves—
pebbles of gray puffs, but then band together
like stringed pearls. Until we learn to listen to
each other, as thunderous as opera or as soft
as a showered lullaby. Until we truly treasure
the sunset, lavish it in mauve, rust, and rose.
Until we have the courage to vanish like sails
into the horizon, or be at peace, anchored still.
Until we move without any measure, as vast
as continents or as petite as islands, floating
in an abyss of virtual blue we belong to. Until
we dance tango with the moon and comfort
the jealous stars, falling. Until we care enough
for the earth to bless it as morning fog. Until
we realize we’re muddy as puddles, pristine
as lakes not yet clouds. Until we remember
we’re born from rivers and dewdrops. Until
we are at ease to dissolve as wispy showers,
not always needing to clash like godly yells
of thunder. Until we believe lightning roots
are not our right to the ground. Though we
collude into storms that ravage, we can also
sprinkle ourselves like memories. Until we
tame the riot of our tornadoes, settle down
into a soft drizzle, into a daydream. Though
we may curse with hail, we can absolve with
snowflakes. We can die valiant as rainbows,
and hold light in our lucid bodies like blood.
We can decide to move boundlessly, without
creed or desire. Until we are clouds meshed
within clouds sharing a kingdom with no king,
a city with no walls, a country with no name,
a nation without any borders or claim. Until
we abide as one together in one single sky.

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