If you’re haunted sometimes by memories of “gay terror” from your childhood- especially when it involved family- this essay is for you. In reading it, I recognized so much of the familiar and long-past memories of shame and fear that molded me, that sent me- much later- into the world with clearer purpose. I also recognized the stories of clients and friends- and not just gay friends- many of us eventually disappointed or confused the people who raised us….
At thirty-one, I sit at a candlelit table across from the man who will be my husband. I tell him about my grandmother and the coping mechanisms I developed; how they naturally led me to writing; mechanisms that became part of my very creative process. Becoming withdrawn and introverted, I grew to become an observer of the world, instead of a participant. In order to survive emotionally I learned to read my environment very carefully and then craft appropriate responses that would (hopefully) prevent abuse and ridicule from my grandmother. I explain to my husband-to-be that I am still that quiet, repressed boy whenever I am in a room full of people, trying to be as invisible as possible, but taking in every detail, sensory as well as emotional, that will eventually surface in a poem.
My work is often described as vivid and lush; relatives often marvel at my recollection in my poems of family events and details. Qualities I attribute directly to the skills spawned from my coping with my abuse. But beyond that, I’ve come to understand why writing and me became such a great fit. It allowed me to participate in the world, to feel alive, while remaining an invulnerable observer, safe in my room, at my desk, in my imagination where no one, especially my grandmother, could hurt me.
It’s beautiful and humble and brilliant. Please read the full essay here. And then, in case you missed it, watch Richard Blanco read his lovely poem at the president’s inauguration yesterday.
- Richard Blanco named inauguration poet (rep-am.com)
- Read Miami poet Richard Blanco’s inauguration poem, One Today (miamiherald.com)
- Richard Blanco, Hispanic and Openly Gay, Delivers Inaugural Poem (politic365.com)