Archives for posts with tag: Miami

bill_wisser

PHOTO OF A MAN ON SUNSET DRIVE: 1914, 2008 (Excerpt)
Groundbreaking Ceremony, City of South Miami, Sunset Drive Improvements
by Richard Blanco

And so it began: the earth torn, split open
by a dirt road cutting through palmettos
and wild tamarind trees defending the land
against the sun. Beside the road, a shack
leaning into the wind, on the wooden porch,
crates of avocados and limes, white chickens
pecking at the floor boards, and a man
under the shadow of his straw hat, staring
into the camera in 1914. He doesn’t know
within a lifetime the unclaimed land behind
him will be cleared of scrub and sawgrass,
the soil will be turned, made to give back
what the farmers wish, their lonely houses
will stand acres apart from one another,
jailed behind the boughs of their orchards…

Photo: ”Miami Sunset,” Bill Wisser Photography, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Blanco arrived in Miami shortly after his birth in 1968, the son of Cuban exiles. His acclaimed first book, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American, and received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press (1998). His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005) won the 2006 PEN/American Beyond Margins Award for its continued exploration of the universal themes of home and place. In January 2013, he was invited to read a poem at President Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly, Best American Poetry 2000, Best American Prose Poems, and National Public Radio. Blanco earned both a bachelors of science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (1997). He currently lives in Bethel, Maine, where he writes and works as a consultant engineer. (Source: Poetryfoundation.org)

bill_wisser

PHOTO OF A MAN ON SUNSET DRIVE: 1914, 2008
Groundbreaking Ceremony, City of South Miami, Sunset Drive Improvements
by Richard Blanco

And so it began: the earth torn, split open
by a dirt road cutting through palmettos
and wild tamarind trees defending the land
against the sun. Beside the road, a shack
leaning into the wind, on the wooden porch,
crates of avocados and limes, white chickens
pecking at the floor boards, and a man
under the shadow of his straw hat, staring
into the camera in 1914. He doesn’t know
within a lifetime the unclaimed land behind
him will be cleared of scrub and sawgrass,
the soil will be turned, made to give back
what the farmers wish, their lonely houses
will stand acres apart from one another,
jailed behind the boughs of their orchards.
He’ll never buy sugar at the general store,
mail love letters at the post office, or take
a train at the depot of the town that will rise
out of hundred-million years of coral rock
on promises of paradise. He’ll never ride
a Model-T puttering down the dirt road
that will be paved over, stretch farther and
farther west into the horizon, reaching for
the setting sun after which it will be named.
He can’t even begin to imagine the shadows
of buildings rising taller than the palm trees,
the street lights glowing like counterfeit stars
dotting the sky above the road, the thousands
who will take the road everyday, who’ll also
call this place home less than a hundred years
after the photograph of him hanging today
in City Hall as testament. He’ll never meet
me, the engineer hired to transform the road
again, bring back tree shadows and birdsongs,
build another promise of another paradise
meant to last another forever. He’ll never see
me, the poet standing before him, trying
to read his mind across time, wondering if
he was thinking what I’m today, both of us
looking down the road that will stretch on
for years after I too disappear into a photo.

Source: Place of Mind (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2011)
Photo: “Miami Sunset,” Bill Wisser Photography, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Blanco arrived in Miami shortly after his birth in 1968, the son of Cuban exiles. His acclaimed first book, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American, and received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press (1998). His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005) won the 2006 PEN/American Beyond Margins Award for its continued exploration of the universal themes of home and place. In January 2013, he was invited to read a poem at President Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly, Best American Poetry 2000, Best American Prose Poems, and National Public Radio. Blanco earned both a bachelors of science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (1997). He currently lives in Bethel, Maine, where he writes and works as a consultant engineer. (Source: Poetryfoundation.org)

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Little, Brown will release Tom Wolfe‘s new novel, Back to Blood, on Tuesday, October 23rd, but the book is already #28 on Amazon.com. Set in Miami, Back to Blood is Wolfe’s long-awaited “next book,” after what many consider a disappointing I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004).

The new novel has earned — for the most part, anyway — positive reviews for the 81-year-old Wolfe. I’ve read or scanned many of the top reviews and the bottom line is that Back to Blood is much better than I Am Charlotte Simmons, but nowhere near as great as The Bonfires of the Vanities (one of my all-time favorites).

Reading the reviews of Wolfe’s latest effort — with their many references to the similarities between The Bonfires of the Vanities and Back to Blood (racial/ethnic tensions, hedonistic characters, lots of CAPITAL LETTERS, and exclamation points!!!!, and other resemblances) — I recalled a writer’s warning I read somewhere. The cautionary words were: “You know you’ve lost your soul as a writer when you start imitating yourself.”

To me, this means you are trying to recapture some former glory or a time when writing came easily and you turned in virtuoso performances. Now, you’re rusty, so rather than find a new authentic voice, you just turn in a weak imitation of some past performance — but now the effort lacks soul.

I’m not saying this is true for Wolfe because I haven’t yet read Back to Blood (I am number 151 on the L.A. Public Library waiting list). But I think this is true for any writer. You can’t look over your shoulder at what you once were, but need to write from an authentic place — even if it’s a less impressive performance.

Several years ago, I read an art history study that examined whether famous artists produced their greatest work when young or when old. In the study, Pablo Picasso was an example of an artist who’d created his best work during his younger years (Picasso lived to be 91), and Claude Monet was cited as an artist who’d produced his greatest work when old (he lived to be 86).

While many will agree that the older Picasso sometimes tried to imitate the younger, wunderkind Picasso, no one could accuse Monet of such behavior. In fact, Monet’s later work is considered his greatest precisely because he didn’t try to imitate himself. When he was stricken with cataracts and was nearly blind, he changed his style and started to paint everything in large proportions on gigantic canvases. So, despite his physical limitations, his soul prevailed and he was able to create magnificent works of art.

But getting back to Tom Wolfe’s latest novel. It is my fervent wish that this feisty octogenarian has produced something truly great. I’m looking forward to reading the 720-page novel (Wolfe, at his best, makes the pages fly by) — maybe I’ll get to it sometime next year when my number at the library comes up.

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Painting: “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet (1916) — painted when the artist was in his 70s and suffering from cataracts. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the comprehensive show of Monet’s work held in 1995 at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum exhibited Monet’s paintings in chronological order, so that by the time I arrived at the later work (Monet painted until a few months before his death in 1926), I was dumbstruck, awestruck, and inspired that someone could create such masterworks well into “old” age.