February 16, 2014

Poetry on the Slopes—With Richard Blanco

He's conquered one of the largest public speaking venues you can imagine. Now, presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco will have to commit and keep upright on a ski trail named after his inaugural poem.

On Saturday, February 15, 2014, in an accumulating snowfall, friends and community members gathered at Mt. Abram ski area in Greenwood, Maine, for the dedication of a trail in honor of Blanco's presidential inauguration poem, "One Today."

Before the ceremony began, I caught up with Blanco for his thoughts on the dedication.

What would you have said to yourself, back in Miami as an MFA student, on, say, an August afternoon, if someone would have suggested that one day a ski trail would be named after one of your poems? 

Richard Blanco: I would have said one of two things (or both): (1) Well, you never know…I’ve always dreamed of living in a quiet New England town and getting away from this God-forsaken heat; or (2) Yeah right…and one day I’ll be named the presidential inaugural poet! But seriously, it is a great honor, and it just thrills me to think that poetry a can be part of our lives in this way.

According to Mt. Abram, this is the first trail at the mountain to be named after a creative person, product, or endeavor. If you were to name another trail after a poem – yours or someone else's – whose and which poem would you choose?

RB: I would choose my all-time favorite poem by Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art.” Come to think of it just now, maybe that poem influenced the title of “One Today.” I’ll be damned. That’s one of the things I love about poetry…you keep on discovering new things about a poem…even the ones you write.

When did you learn to ski, and how often do you get to now?

RB: Well, truth be told, it still takes an act of God to get me on a green, which is what makes the naming of the ski trail so very special – and quite ironic! Oh, I’ve been to a lot of ski resorts over the years, on account that my partner, Mark, is an avid skier. But somehow I always managed to wiggle out of skiing, and instead sit with a cup hot cocoa, get a massage, scribble a few lines in my journal about the beauty of winter. But the fact that I’ve never been much of an athlete, combined with my Floridian “blood,” makes skiing a frightening prospect. I keep waiting for the moment – like when you first learn how to ride bike – when I can say without a doubt, “I got it!”

Will you take any of your family members to the trail in the future?

RB: My only brother is the only one in the entire family who skis. He loves it – and he comes to visit me every winter holiday. I’m sure next time he is here he’ll ski One Today. He'd better!

What will you think of during your first run down One Today?

RB: "I hope I don’t die!" I’m still trying to get out of having to ski down it, but I know I’ll have to find the courage, for the good of poetry!

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