BOOK REVIEW: How to Love a Country by Richard Blanco

How to Love a CountryHow to Love a Country by Richard Blanco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Out March 26, 2019

 

This book takes one on a roller coaster ride of insight into the author’s relationship with his country as an immigrant from a family of Cuban exiles. At times the tone is hopeful and at other times seething or even vitriolic. Unlike many of the angry works of political verse of late, this one sometimes reflects that most beautiful of pragmatic truths: one can’t truly love anything if one can’t embrace it imperfections and all. As it happens, this wide sway in tone is partly the result of these poems being collected from various sources. Having a poem commissioned by the State Department in a collection with a poem that was a response to a news story about someone being gunned down is bound to result in some variation in feel. Still, I think the poems were well-organized to reflect the various trials and glories one goes through in a relationship. The angry verse is well-positioned toward the middle, and about the time I was over the rage, the storm clouds began to break up and a more beautiful scene unfolded.

The poems are prose poetry or free verse. There is beautiful use of language interspersed with plain-spoken verse.

I’d recommend this collection for poetry readers. I don’t suspect it will have a particularly wide audience. A jingoistic reader who picks it up for its title will drop it like a hot rock long before getting to the aforementioned angry plateau. Which is not to say that there isn’t something to be gained from reading this book even if it doesn’t comport with one’s own views. The issue of division along fault lines of political-philosophy is a major theme of this collection.

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DAILY PHOTO: Trail in the Woods

Taken in April of 2011 in Panola Mountain State Park

5 of the Coolest Places We Visited in 2018

It’s year-in-review time, and I thought I’d do list of the most interesting places we visited this year. We stayed in the US for six weeks for visa renewal, and so that ate a lot of travel time an energy. That said, we still visited more places than I had room for on the list. We had fun visits to Mumbai, Kodaikanal, and Galveston Island — not to mention a road trip that took us on a supremely scenic drive through West Virginia. But a few places stood out for various reasons.

 

5.) Lincoln Park: This sprawling city park along Lake Michigan hosts a free Zoo, a Conservatory, museums, beaches, and beautiful urban green space.

 

4.) City Palace: Udaipur offers one of the most scenic urban spaces in all of India. This palace was home of Mewar ruling dynasty, and, sitting upon Lake Pichola, is the heart of this historic city.

 

3.) Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum: This “annex” to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum takes advantage of the wide open spaces of Chantilly, Virginia (near Dulles Airport) to house some huge exhibits such as Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde, an SR-71, and commercial aircraft.

 

2.) Neil Island: This small island to the northeast of Port Blair is beloved for its snorkeling, beaches, and laid-back atmosphere. Full disclosure: I’m including this island of faith as we won’t be visiting it for another week or so, but by the time we return from the Andamans it will be 2019. For those unfamiliar, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands form an archipelago that is governed by India, though geographically it is nearer to Myanmar (Burma.)

 

1.) Annapurna Base Camp: There were lots of places in our visit to Nepal that could have made this list, but, forced to choose a highlight of our trip to Nepal, ABC wins hands down. It was the culmination of a tea-house trek of the Annapurna Sanctuary that offered spectacular views and experiences throughout.

 

As for what to expect in 2019, I have a trip to Laos planned early in January, and we are tentatively considering a hiking trip to Central Asia (probably Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.) Of course, we are not so good sticking to long-term plans, so who knows where the winds will take us.

There remain plenty of awesome travel destinations in India, though our challenge is that the low hanging fruit has been partaken of, and we are left with many locations that are a challenge to get to when one only has a few days with which to work

DAILY PHOTO: Flowers of Lincoln Park Zoo

Taken in August of 2018 in the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago