Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, August 15, 2014

Richard Blanco, _Looking for the Gulf Motel_

I PICKED THIS up because I enjoyed Blanco's inauguration poem (okay, yes, it did take me a while to get around to reading the book) for its Whitman-like qualities: its long lines, its deep-breath sweep, its embrace of the details of many different kinds of lives. Turns out, that's not the way he usually writes--at least, there is nothing of that sort in this book, but it was worthwhile all the same.

In Looking for the Gulf Motel, at least, Blanco is not really a wide-screen, Whitman kind of poet. His subject matter comes mainly from the intimate and close-to-home, family, partners, memories of growing up. His form is loosely closed, the lines perhaps not technically iambic pentameter but recalling iambic rhythms, with a penchant for 5- and 6-line stanzas.

His poetic voice is one of those that makes you think the poet is probably a terrific person to hang out with--perceptive, honest, sometimes quite funny, capable of deep attachment. This means nothing, I realize. I've met poets whose work was light, bright, and sparkling, but seemed mired in depression themselves, and poets whose work was of a funereal grimness, yet were an absolute hoot to spend time with. But, as Will Cuppy once wrote, great writers should be read, not met.  The two hours (say) you spend reading this book will feel like time  pleasantly spent.

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