Richard Blanco’s ‘How to Love A Country’ poetry book was published by Beacon Press of Boston earlier this year. COURTESY PHOTO

How to Love A Country

By Richard Blanco, Poet
Published Beacon Press, Boston 2019
Pages 92 Price $18.95
This new poetry book by Richard Blanco covers a wide variety of issues facing America today. Selected by Barak Obama as the 5th Inaugural poet in U.S. history, poet Richard Blanco describe America both in its strengths and weaknesses, in anger and despair, but always with love and compassion.Blanco was born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents, and raised in Miami.
Blanco focuses on the search for cultural identity, respect for diversity, and the need equality.
Blanco’s speaks from the heart in language everyone can understand. In his new book,“How to Love a Country,” he explores how to make a better world. The last stanza in the first poem titled ”Declaration of Inter-Dependence” was the best poem  for me, because it gave hope and recorded the simple things in life that make happiness, not material things.
The average person cannot solve major problems such as the immigration issue in Washington D.C. but an individual person can smile. A smile can open a door to friendship to a neighbor or a  stranger in our own communities and help make a better world in that away. The message Blanco makes in his poetry is, we can make a better world by starting with small kindnesses in our own communities. He also brings out in his poems that we have to face our mistakes in order to not repeat them.
I like Blanco’s poetry because it is written for everyone. He makes it clear everyone can help others by reaching out to a neighbor, or by making friends with a stranger. We don’t have to be an Ambassador to the U.N. We can just be a nice person and give friends or even strangers a smile. Here is part of the last stanza in Blanco’s first poem in the book which inspired me.    
“Declaration of Inter- Dependence”
“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 in a subway. We’re every door held open with smile.”
I liked this poem because I think many people go around with blinders on their eyes. They don’t have time to give a smile to anyone. It is just a little thing, but it helps others on a difficult day. It says without words, “We are friends.” “I see you.” “I accept you.” ”I understand.”
Blanco also talks about our tragedies and weaknesses in the following poem.
“Easy Lynching on Herndon Avenue
“What I’d rather not see isn’t here: no rope, no black body under a white moon swaying limb from a tree,no bloody drops of dew on the 21st of March.That’s in another photo, like a dozen other photos, Ive’s gaped wanting  —— not wanting —-to turn away from the snapped necks of the hanged…………How could they? Why?”
This poem refers to the last recorded lynching in the United States: the lynching  of Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama in 1981. The Ku Klux Klan was found guilty and civilly liable. The settlement bankrupted the United Klans of America and became a precedent for civil legal action against other racist hate groups.
Other poems like “Remembering Boston Strong” written in response to the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, and “One Pulse—— One Poem” written in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting of 2016, including “St. Louis, Prayer Before Dawn” which addresses the racial and class divide of the city, are  all significant social justice issues.
Another significant poem is“Matters of the Sea” a poem commissioned by the U.S. Department of State during Obama’s administration, to commemorate the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, in hopes to serve as a catalyst in bringing our countries together.
All the poems in this book reveal America is a melting pot society and we need each other. The eloquent author, Richard Blanco states, “The title of the book, ”How to Love a Country” is both a statement of hope in our nationhood and implied question about our struggles with it. My intent was to ground these poems in the complexity and contradictions of my personal, as well as our collective relationship to our country.”
The history behind some specific poems which explain their backgrounds is given by Blanco, in the back of the book. This brings a deeper meaning to each poem.
This poetry book is for all people from all walks of life. If you have not bought a poetry book this year, buy this one. Blanco’s beautiful poems are about the major issues in America which have been major events, both good and tragic, written with love.  Historians get bogged down with facts. Poets tell us the feelings behind the facts of every age. Blanco’s poems record the age in which we live, with sensitivity, grace, and compassion.
Juror #3
By James Patterson and Nancy Allan
Published Little Brown and Company 2018
Pages 331 Price $28
 Here is another who- done- it by James Patterson. This time he has written it with mystery writer Nancy Allen.Togeher they have built a tantalizing tale. We hear the story through a woman’s point of view. It is a contemporary story but its theme radiates an old tale of prejudice in the South.
Timeless, the theme is about a woman lawyer who is in charge of defending a 21 year old young man of color  being accused of murdering a white woman socialite. The plot  which mirrors injustice in the old south is realistic,even though the story is contemporary fiction. The character of the woman lawyer is unique because she travels in what was once a man’s profession.
Many years ago women lawyers were not accepted as trial lawyers. Trail lawyers were usually men who were sharp, risk  takers.  Now women are in all professions and are wonderful trail lawyers including attorney generals and the governor of this state, as well as candidates for presidential campaign elections.
Ruby Bozarth, a new young woman attorney, is appointed by the court to represent Darrien Summers, a 21- year- old person of color, who works in the kitchen of the Wiilams Country Club in  Williams Mississippi.
Jewel Shaw, the daughter of one of the founders of the country club, is found dead in a cabana near the pool. There is a group of cabanas around the pool behind the  kitchen. Jewel who is in one of the cabanas has been stabbed 13 times.
Darrien Summers, a bus boy in the kitchen, sneaks out for a cigarette and a rendezvous with Jewel during the Madi Gras Ball at the Williams Country Club. He walks through the open door of the cabana and sees Jewel lying on the floor. He thinks she is drunk and picks her up to put her on a bed and sees blood all over her. As he puts her down on the bed a security official comes in with flashlight and guards. They see a black man lifting a body that is  bloody onto the bed and immediately arrest him as the murderer. Now there is Darrien’s DNA all over the place, not to mention blood.
Into this hopeless case comes Ruby Bozarth, a new young attorney who had never tried a murder case. But she is dauntless. After the jurors were picked Judge Baylor excuses a number of them because of a literacy law in Mississippi requiring jurors to be able to read. Ruby immediately says, “This is abuse of  the court.” Judge Baylor retorts, “Your objection is noted but let’s move on with the proceedings.”
Ruby looks over the accepted jurors and sees a juror #3  to whom she takes an immediate dislike. He has a birthmark and she had heard him talking in the local eating place. He was fairly rude. She does not think he will be sympathetic to her side but moves on.
Not only prejudice flies in this case, but social snobbery. Jewel’s mother grabs Ruby’s arm and says “We remember who you are. Your mother was a cleaning lady.” Now the story is entering a 1948 class B movie.But I remain hopeful that Ruby can win over all obstacles because she is on the side of good over evil, truth over lies, and manipulation of power over the powerless. She is also representing an innocent man being railroaded to jail.
 Ruby has one ace up her sleeve. She has copied Jewel’s cell phone and photos while observing  personal items of the deceased and knows who else she was seeing including lewd photos sent to other men. Ruby calls back a number found in Jewel’s cell telephone in court and it rings in the jury box at Juror number 3. Juror number 3 immediately goes AWOL.
Actually, Ruby has everyone running in circles. She is much smarter than anyone thinks. If you want to find out what happens in this case you will have to read the book. I can tell you this, Ruby gets famous from handling this case and people have a new  respect in Williams County for her and young women lawyers. In fact she is called for a second murder case by the family of her former fiance, Lee Greene.
There are really two mysteries in one novel in this book. The uniting factor is the  capable new young woman attorney Ruby Bozarth and how she holds her own with doubters of her ability. You guessed it, she becomes a shining beacon of light. This book is predictable, light weight, but good summer reading.
— Pat Davidson Reef is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She received her Masters Degree at the University of Southern Maine.She taught English and Art History at Catherine McAuley High for many years. She now teaches at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Classic Films. She recently wrote a children’s book,”Dahlov Ipcar Artist,” and is now writing another children’s book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.”

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