The irony in Richard Blanco’s poems is as evident as the dichotomies that have played out throughout his life, such as those he notes on his website of “the Cuban Blanco or the American Richard, the homebody or the world traveler, the scared boy or the openly gay man, the engineer or the inaugural poet.”
So Blanco finds it humorous that a ski trail in western Maine will be named in his honor Saturday, because Blanco doesn’t ski – or partake much in winter outdoor sports, for that matter. He is a Floridian by upbringing.
But the ski trail at Mt. Abram that will be dedicated to Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” is very meaningful to the artist filled with wanderlust who has called many places home, because for the first time Blanco calls Bethel a lifelong home.
The Mt. Abram ski trail in the village of Greenwood will be named after the poem Blanco wrote for the 2013 presidential inauguration at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“Bethel is the only place that I can remember in my life that who I am emotionally and intellectually, and where I am spiritually I also am physically. It seems before I’d be in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the wrong time. This seems the right place at the right time,” Blanco said.
“It’s one place that if I ever live somewhere else for career or economics or even health reasons, I want to always save a place here I can return to as a retreat. It’s a great place to write. I’d love to keep this place as a sacred place forever.”
For those who don’t know the poem made famous when President Obama selected Blanco as the 2013 inaugural poet, “One Today” thrust Blanco into the spotlight and turned his writing career into a meaningful public journey.
His famous poem tells the story of a child raised by a resilient immigrant mother who shared heritage in Cuba, Spain and the United States. By offering a poem that spoke of our universal humanity and shared qualities, Blanco found himself connecting more closely with people everywhere he went.
And he says today Bethel was a part of that journey.
“Bethel is the closest, I think, to the community of my childhood, which is kind of ironic,” Blanco said in a phone interview. “In Miami I was part of a close-knit community of Cuban exiles and I recognized that in Bethel, that small-town feeling; sort of all-for-one-and-one-for-all; and the gossip, too. It’s really one of those things that rekindles for me a sense of community.”
He said the mountains, forestland and natural beauty throughout Maine also have had a profound affect on him.
So it is appropriate that the poem Blanco wrote for the presidential inauguration, “One Today,” will become the name of a ski trail in Maine – regardless of whether Blanco skis.
“In Bethel and Maine in general, there is that presence of nature all around you every day. I think I see more trees each day than I see people. There is something very attractive about that here; it is very imposing and it doesn’t let you forget that,” said Blanco, 45.
“In my last book there actually are poems about Maine, that take place in Maine. That is really rare for me. Usually I wrote from a nostalgic distance. That speaks volumes to me.”
Asked what he hoped the naming of the ski trail after “One Today” will do for Mt. Abram or the Bethel region, Blanco said his wish would be for it to bring some recognition to the ski area and help the economic viability and prosperity of the region. But in general, like any good poet, Blanco said that he hopes others enjoy the irony in the honor, because he said “the contrasts are what give life great flavor.”
“I love the irony that a Florida kid who can barely get enough courage to go down a green ski slope is living in Bethel, Maine, and now has a ski trail named after him. I think that is fantastic,” Blanco said.
Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at: