Woodstock gala features poet with ‘sense of mission’

  • Poet Richard Blanco - Friday, April 12, 2013.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2019 10:36:02 PM
Modified: 4/24/2019 10:35:58 PM

WOODSTOCK — If time ever permits Richard Blanco to craft a motto for his burgeoning career as a civic poet, he might choose something along the lines of “Have verse, will travel.”

Maybe Blanco, best known for reciting his poem One Today during Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration, will find a moment after reading from his new collection, How to Love a Country, on Sunday evening at the Woodstock Inn, during the gala benefiting the Norman Williams Public Library.

“I have not stopped,” the 51-year-old Blanco said last week in a telephone interview from Maine, scant hours after flying back to his home state from a reading in North Carolina. “I travel about 75 percent of my time. But the people I meet and the stories I hear keep me going and energized.

“It gives me a great sense of mission.”

The mission gained urgency in April 2013, when terrorists killed three people and wounded scores more by detonating two homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Blanco read his poem, Boston Strong, at a subsequent concert benefiting survivors and the victims’ families, and turned it into a chapbook whose net proceeds went to One Fund Boston.

And while writing commissioned poems for subsequent occasions, Blanco kept watching — and processing — the news of the world in general and his adopted country (he was born in Spain to exiles from Cuba, who moved to New York in his first year).

The resulting How to Love a Country, whose poems address issues ranging from gun violence to mistreatment of immigrants, did not begin with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

“The book has been writing itself for the last five or six years,” Blanco said. “It’s a call to action to stop looking at each other through polarized lenses, to make us understand our role and responsibility — not just voting for president every four years.”

Admission to the Norman Williams Public Library’s Ex-Libris Gala, at the Woodstock Inn, is $125, including a reception at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30. Proceeds from sales of How to Love a Country and of Richard Blanco’s books, which he will sign, also go to the library’s operations. To reserve seats and learn more, visit normanwilliams.org.

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