Named one of Library Journal’s Top 20 Poetry Books of 1998
Winner of the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize
Runner up for the Great Lakes Colleges Association 1999 New Writers Award
City of a Hundred Fires presents us with a journey through the cultural coming of age experiences of the hyphenated Cuban-American. This distinct group, known as the Ñ Generation (as coined by Bill Teck), are the bilingual children of Cuban exiles nourished by two cultural currents—the fragmented traditions and transferred nostalgia of their parents’ Caribbean homeland and the very real and present America where they grew up and live.
An exploration in verse of rites of passage within the Cuban-American culture shows how a combined nostalgia for a lost world and a daily confrontation with American culture leads to self-awareness.
In a keenly impressive debut, Blanco, a Cuban raised in the United States, records his threefold burdens: learning and adapting to American culture, translating for family and friends, and maintaining his own roots. . . . Blanco is already a mature, seasoned writer, and his powers of description and determination to get every nuance correct are evident from the first poem. . . . Absolutely essential for all libraries.
Blanco is a fine young poet, and this poetry, the bread and wine of our language of exile, is pure delight, written with Lorca's El Duende's eyes and heart. May he continue to produce such a heavenly mix of rhythm and image—these poems are more than gems, they are the truth not only about the Cuban-American experience, but of our collective experience in the United States, a beautiful land of gypsies.
Richard Blanco's City of a Hundred Fires lights up the American literary scene with a fresh new vigor and voice that takes its place in the front rank of poetry. This wonderful book will also draw readers from beyond the world of poetry, entrancing a wide audience with the music of its language, its beautiful evocation of love and loss and hope.
City of a Hundred Fires is one of the most exciting first books of the decade—vibrant and diverse, infused with energy and formal dexterity, equally at ease in Spanish and English. As if that weren't enough, it feels like an important cultural document as well—a bicultural document, testimony to the dualities of identity central not only to Cuban but to all "hyphenated Americans"—exile and citizen, emigrant and immigrant, elegist and celebrant. Richard Blanco is a poet of remarkable talents—in any language.
What a delicia these poems are, sad, tender, and filled with longing. Like an old photograph, a saint's statue worn away by the devout, a bolero on the radio on a night full of rain. Me emocionan. There is no other way to say it. They emotion me.
The poet's nostalgia for Cuba, a life seen through the lens of his parents' exile, here meets head on his own coming of age in a culturally and racially diverse Miami. Full of vivid and specific detail, dotted with Spanish phrases, these poems arrest the reader much as the Ancient Mariner did, transfixing the listener.
As one of the newer voices in Cuban-American poetry, Blanco writes about the reality of an uprooted culture and how the poet binds the farthest regions of the world together through language. This book describes the price of exile and extends beyond the shores of America and the imagined shores of home.
Unlike most contemporary minority poetry, City of a Hundred Fires introduces readers to the fullness and richness of ethnic life, and not only the frustration and isolation so often associated with it. Richard Blanco exquisitely portrays the triumphs and defeats of a land and a people that have just barely survived revolution and time, and, without sentiment or cliche, affirms the ability within us all to achieve wholeness.
Richard Blanco, selected as the 2013 inaugural poet by President Barack Obama, is the author of three poetry collections: Directions to The Beach of the Dead, winner of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award; City of a Hundred Fires, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and Looking for The Gulf Motel. Exploring themes of Latino identity and place, his poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2000 and Best American Prose Poems and have been featured on NPR. Blanco is a fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, and has taught at Georgetown and American universities. A builder of cities and poems, Blanco is also a professional civil engineer.learn more