How thrilling that you were the inaugural poet today. For days I’ve wanted to take to the streets like a peddler carrying braids of onions on my shoulders and shout out the news: “Richard is a great poet! And he’s my friend!” But I’m in Cuba, our native land, and there was no one to share my excitement with, because your poetry isn’t known here, you write in English. So I told the thirteen University of Michigan students who are here with me for three months on our study abroad program. We watched you on CNN, and cheered for you from this side of the ocean.
Over the last twenty years, you and I have talked obsessively about where is home, and what is home, and whether home is a place or a state of mind. Your poems burn with the sorrow of Cubans who longed to go back to the island but never did. Our parents, the Cuban exiles, settled in America reluctantly; they never could get used to eating turkey on Thanksgiving. Now you will speak, not just on behalf of Cuban Americans, but all Americans. You, Richard, symbolize that we have been fully accepted as citizens of our adopted nation. And so I’m wondering: Is it time for Cuban Americans to let go of their obsession with the island, to stop looking back? Read more