Blanco, Richard, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead(Camino del Sol)”, University of Arizona Press, 2005.
Richard Blanco explores the familiar yet disorienting journey home in “Directions to the Beach of the Dead”, his second book length collection of poetry. He writes of the restlessness that, in a sense, threatens his ability to stay in one place—there are many other places but too little time, he says. Here is a book about home and for all of us who want to find a home. It found the poems so identifiable as I think of my own life as I have tried to find the place to call home—New Orleans, Israel, Arkansas, Boston—I am the son of parents of exile and yet I am still looking for that place that I can call, truly, my home. Just as Blanco lives with a hyphen, Cuban-American, so do I, Jewish-Israeli-American and thus his poetry really speaks to me.
Blanco takes us through the stages of his life–“ engineer by day, poet by heart, the rhythms of Spanish, the percussion of English, first-world professional, immigrant, gay man, the straight world”. He wants to know why he cannot just live where he lives. Reading Blanco actually seemed a bit voyeuristic to me as if I was encroaching on his innermost thoughts. He is intimate and personal and yet we take on the characters that he writes of. Blanco writes with vulnerability and with strength and these two qualities balance each other and expose us to his emotions of longing.
As we accompany Blanco on his journey to find his home, we go into his past, share his present and hope for his future. We venture in and out of memory; we hear his father’s stories, we hear the son’s reactions and we feel the love. We go where he goes and we meet his lovers, his family and his friends. Here is poetry that speaks to us and to our sensibilities and we enter a communion with the poet.