2013年1月20日 星期日

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco



人物

他為總統獻上一首精神流亡者的詩

Craig Dilger for The New York Times
理乍得·布蘭科被選中在2013年的總統就職典禮上獻詩。

華盛頓——詩人理乍得·布蘭科(Richard Blanco)是古巴流亡者的兒子,他說,從巴拉克·奧巴馬躍上政治舞台的那一刻,他就感到與這個人有一種“精神上的聯繫”,奧巴馬成為美國的第44任總統。
奧巴馬在暢銷自傳《我父親的夢想》(Dreams From My Father)中,講述了他受到的多元文化熏陶。現在布蘭科也在努力通過寫作尋找自己的身份。他說自己處於多種文化之中的親身感受,令他對奧巴馬感到格外 親切。他是拉丁美洲裔、同性戀、是土木工程師,同時也是詩人。他的詩中滿懷憧憬地描繪了父母所離開的那片故土的風景與氣味。
現在,奧巴馬打算把布蘭科從相對安靜、不為人知的詩歌世界裡拉出來,讓他在全世界面前亮相。本周三(1月9日——譯註),總統就職典禮的策劃人將宣 布布蘭科將在2013年的就職典禮上獻詩,就像羅伯特·弗羅斯特(Robert Frost)和瑪雅·安吉羅(Maya Angelou)等著名詩人曾經做過的那樣。
“從大選之初,我就完全理解他的人生故事,以及他談論自己家庭的方式,當然還有他的多元文化背景,”布蘭科在電話採訪中說;他和伴侶住在緬因州貝塞爾的農村,“從這種意義上講,我們一直都有一種精神聯繫。我覺得從某些方面來說,當我在寫自己的家庭時,也是在寫他的家庭。”
1月21日,新總統將在國會大廈的台階上舉行就職典禮。布蘭科先生現在需要為這個場合創作一首新詩(根據憲法的要求,奧巴馬先生將於1月20日在白 宮宣誓就職)。就職典禮委員會的發言人艾迪·維森南特(Addie Whisenant)說,奧巴馬先生選擇布蘭科先生,是因為這位詩人“非常個人化的詩歌植根於身為美國人的意義這個概念”。
布蘭科的朋友們和其他詩人們說,總統不可能找到比他更合適的人了。
“我認為他被選中是因為他眼中的美國與總統眼中的美國非常相似,”利茲·巴爾馬塞達(Liz Balmaseda)這樣說;她在20世紀90年代中期與布蘭科相遇,當時他在詩歌界剛剛嶄露頭角,而她是《邁阿密先驅報》的專欄作家:“即使你不是流亡 者,不是拉美裔,不是同性戀,你也能理解理乍得詩歌中的渴望。”
布蘭科今年44歲,他在古巴受孕,在西班牙出生,在邁阿密長大並接受教育。他的母親是銀行出納,父親是會計。他的祖母在詩中被稱為 “abuela”,是個揮之不去,具有強大影響力的人物。家裡一直傳說他是以理乍得·M·尼克松(Richard M. Nixon)命名的,尼克松堅決反對菲德爾·卡斯特羅(Fidel Castro),所以是他父親最喜愛的總統。
布蘭科家境一般,感恩節他們吃豬肉(在他發表的第一首詩《美國》[América]中,他寫道有一年他堅持要吃火雞),在節日和過生日的時候,家裡播放拉丁音樂。他們生活的重心是食物和家庭,就像布蘭科在另一首詩《芒果,第61號》(Mango, Number 61)中寫的那樣,“櫃檯上覆蓋著西班牙文報紙,祖母和我蜷縮在櫃檯邊大快朵頤,芒果剖開的果肉,在手指間滑動,像融化了的金子。”
像很多移民家庭一樣,布蘭科先生的父母想讓兒子過上更好的生活。“最重要的是要生存下去,”他說。家人讓他在三個職業中選一個:醫生、律師或工程 師。他說他是個“數學奇才”,所以選擇了工程學,壓抑了自己創造性的那一面(以及他的同性戀取向),以贏得祖母的讚賞,祖母認為他太女性化了。
作為工程師,布蘭科曾參與橋樑設計、道路改良,以及南邁阿密市政廳的建設規劃。他說,但是到了25歲左右的時候,他開始問自己一些“身份與文化融 合”方面的問題,比如“我是誰,我屬於哪裡,我父母一直談論的古巴到底有什麼特別之處”,突然之間,他感到一種“強烈的”寫作“衝動”。
布蘭科決定再拿一個藝術和創意寫作方面的碩士學位,所以在佛羅里達國際大學上了夜校,他的工程學學位也是在這裡獲得的。他的導師坎貝爾·麥格拉思 (Campbell McGrath,他碰巧是給奧巴馬第一次就職典禮獻詩的伊麗莎白·亞歷山大[Elizabeth Alexander]兒時的朋友)說,布蘭科在數字和結構設計方面的特長,貫穿於他寫作的始終。
“理乍得永遠都是詩歌界的一位技藝高超的工程師,”麥格拉思教授說,“如果你跟他說這裡或者那裡需要改動一點兒,那你會看到一首完全不同的詩。他理解修改不只是修修補補,而是徹底重新構思,重新寫作。我知道這跟他的工程學技巧有關。”
布蘭科的第一本詩集《一百個火焰的城市》(City of a Hundred Fires)源自他的畢業論文,這本詩集贏得了1997年“阿格尼絲·林奇·斯塔雷特(Agnes Lynch Starrett)詩歌獎”,這是一個專門頒給處女詩集的文學獎項,享有盛譽。該詩集第二年在匹茲堡大學出版社出版。很快,請他任教的邀請紛至沓來。他曾 在新不列顛的中康涅狄格州立大學、喬治城大學、華盛頓的美國大學教過一段時間書,同時繼續工程師工作。直到最近才開始全職寫作。
《一百個火焰的城市》和布蘭科先生的第二本詩集《死亡沙灘指南》(Directions to the Beach of the Dead,亞利桑那大學出版社2005年出版)探討了他的古巴淵源,而他去年出版的最新詩集《尋找海灣汽車旅館》(Looking for the Gulf Motel)把他作為同性戀的生活與非常保守的古巴文化結合了起來。
“這本詩集努力想表達我如何適應這個世界,如何在主流同性戀者和古巴同性戀者之間找到自己的位置,”他說。
他的同事們說,現在布蘭科在寫回憶錄的同時,還在致力於一個全新的、極其困難的工作:為慶祝某個特定活動而寫詩,業內稱之為“應景詩”。在12月 12日得知自己被選中之後,他開始起草三首詩。他對此一直保密,甚至沒告訴他的母親。奧巴馬的團隊將從中選一首供他在就職典禮上朗誦。
“挑戰在於,”他說,“如何在詩中保持自我,保持親切的語調,但同時又能涵蓋‘美國是什麼’這個命題的大部分內容。”
布蘭科將成為美國的第5位為就職典禮獻詩的詩人;這個傳統始於約翰·F·肯尼迪,後被比爾·克林頓沿用,又在奧巴馬先生這裡延續。有些憤世嫉俗的人 可能會說,奧巴馬先生選擇一位拉美裔同性戀詩人是為了鞏固他的政治基礎,因為他選擇反對同性婚姻的里克·沃倫牧師(Rev. Rick Warren)在他2009年的就職典禮上祈禱,遭到一些同性戀者的反對。
但是布蘭科說,奧巴馬先生就職演講的主題“我們的人民,我們的未來”,與他產生了共鳴。他說,他想寫一寫“我認為全體美國人所擁有的社會中堅意識,以及努力工作、共創未來的理念,這種偉大的美國精神在200多年之後依然存在”。
本文最初發表於2013年1月9日。
翻譯:王艷


Poet’s Kinship With the President


WASHINGTON — From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.
 Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world. On Wednesday the president’s inaugural planners will announce that Mr. Blanco is to be the 2013 inaugural poet, joining the ranks of notables like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Mr. Blanco said in a telephone interview from the rural village of Bethel, Me., where he lives with his partner. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”
Mr. Blanco must now compose an original poem for the president’s ceremonial swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 21. (Mr. Obama will take the official oath at the White House on Jan. 20, as required by the Constitution.) Addie Whisenant, the inaugural committee’s spokeswoman, said Mr. Obama picked Mr. Blanco because the poet’s “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.”
Friends of Mr. Blanco’s, and fellow poets, say the president could not have found a more perfect fit.
“I think he was chosen because his America is very similar to the president’s America,” said Liz Balmaseda, who met Mr. Blanco in the mid-1990s when he was just emerging as a poet, and she was working as a columnist for The Miami Herald. “You don’t have to be an exile, you don’t have to be Latino or gay to get the yearning in Richard’s poetry.”
Mr. Blanco, 44, was conceived in Cuba, born in Spain and raised and educated in Miami, where his mother was a bank teller, his father a bookkeeper, and his grandmother — “abuela” in his poems — was a looming, powerful presence. Family folklore has it that he was named for Richard M. Nixon, his father’s favorite president, who took a strong stand against Fidel Castro.
The Blanco home was a modest place where pork was served on Thanksgiving (in his first published poem, “América,” Mr. Blanco writes that he insisted one year on having turkey), and Latin music played on holidays and birthdays. Theirs was a world dominated by food and family, where “mango,” as Mr. Blanco writes in another poem, “Mango, Number 61,” “was abuela and I hunched over the counter covered with the Spanish newspaper, devouring the dissected flesh of the fruit slithering like molten gold through our fingers.”
Like many immigrant families, Mr. Blanco’s parents wanted a better life for their son. “The business was survival,” he said. He was instructed that he had three career choices: doctor, lawyer or engineer. He was “a whiz at math,” he said, so he chose engineering, suppressing his creative side (and his homosexuality) to win the approval of his grandmother, who thought he was too feminine.
As an engineer, Mr. Blanco helped design bridges, road improvements and an architectural site plan for City Hall in South Miami. But in his mid-20s, he said, he began asking himself questions about “identity and cultural negotiations and who am I, where do I belong, what is this stuff about Cuba my parents keep talking about?” Suddenly he felt “a deep need” to write.
Mr. Blanco decided to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts and creative writing, taking courses at night at Florida International University, where he had earned his engineering degree. His mentor there, Campbell McGrath (who also happens to be a childhood friend of Elizabeth Alexander, Mr. Obama’s first inaugural poet), said Mr. Blanco’s facility with numbers and structural design shines through in his writing.
“Richard was always a complete engineer within poetry,” Professor McGrath said. “If you said it needs a little work here or there, a whole transfiguration of a poem emerged. He understood revision not to be just a touch-up job but a complete reimagining, a reworking. I know that’s connected to his engineering skill.”
Mr. Blanco’s first collection, “City of a Hundred Fires,” which grew out of his graduate thesis, won the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, a prestigious literary award for a first full-length book of poetry, and was published the next year by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Soon he was flooded with teaching offers; he taught for a time at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, and Georgetown University and American University in Washington while continuing his engineering work. Only recently did he give up engineering to write full time.
While “City of a Hundred Fires” and Mr. Blanco’s second book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead” (University of Arizona Press, 2005) explore his Cuban heritage, Mr. Blanco’s most recent collection, “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” published last year, incorporates his life as a gay man in the very conservative Cuban culture.
“It’s trying to understand how I fit between negotiating the world, between being mainstream gay and being Cuban gay,” he said.
Now Mr. Blanco, who is also at work on a memoir, is focused on an entirely new and, colleagues say, exceedingly difficult endeavor: composing what is known in his trade as an “occasional poem,” written to commemorate a specific event. After learning of his selection on Dec. 12 — he has kept it a secret even from his mother — he began drafting three poems; the Obama team will pick one for him to read at the inaugural ceremony.
“The challenge,” he said, “is how to be me in the poem, to have a voice that’s still intimate but yet can encompass a multitude of what America is.”
Mr. Blanco will be the nation’s fifth inaugural poet; the practice was begun by John F. Kennedy, picked up by Bill Clinton and continued by Mr. Obama. Cynics might say that in picking a Latino gay poet, Mr. Obama is covering his political bases; some gay people objected to his selection of the Rev. Rick Warren, an opponent of same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his 2009 inauguration.
But Mr. Blanco says Mr. Obama’s inaugural theme, “Our People, Our Future,” resonates with him. He wants to write, he said, about “the salt-of-the-earth sense that I think all Americans have, of hard work, we can work it out together, that incredible American spirit that after 200-plus years is still there.”
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