"In a keenly impressive debut, Blanco, a Cuban raised in the United States, records his threefold burdens: learning and adapting to American culture, translating for family and friends, and maintaining his own roots. These tensions are punctuated by the number of untranslated Spanish words speckled throughout. Blanco is already a mature, seasoned writer, and his powers of description and determination to get every nuance correct are evident from the first poem. Throughout the first half of the book, Blanco describes the culture of cafe and loss: 'this place I call home.' Then, in a delicate stroke, the poems in Part 2 gently switch cultures--from Cubans in the United States to the traveler in Cuba. Carolyn Forche and others can brilliantly and poetically make a record of war-torn cultures; Blanco records his birthright (evinced as he works with letters between his mother and her sister). This collection was awarded the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize; one hopes it will be the start of many such prizes and honors. Absolutely essential for all libraries."
--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York, Library Journal
"What a delicia these poems are, sad, tender, and filled with longing. Like an old photograph, a saint's statue worn away by the devout, a bolero on the radio on a night full of rain. Me emocionan. There is no other way to say it. They emotion me."
"The poet's nostalgia for Cuba, a life seen through the lens of his parents' exile, here meets head on his own coming of age in a culturally and racially diverse Miami. Full of vivid and specific detail, dotted with Spanish phrases, these poems arrest the reader much as the Ancient Mariner did, transfixing the listener."
"City of a Hundred Fires
is one of the most exciting first books of the decade--vibrant and diverse, infused with energy and formal dexterity, equally at ease in Spanish and English. As if that weren't enough, it feels like an important cultural document as well--a bicultural document, testimony to the dualities of identity central not only to Cuban but to all "hyphenated Americans" -- exile and citizen, emigrant and immigrant, elegist and celebrant. Richard Blanco is a poet of remarkable talents -- in any language."
"Blanco is a fine young poet, and this poetry, the bread and wine of our language of exile, is pure delight, written with Lorca's El Duende's eyes and heart. May he continue to produce such a heavenly mix of rhythm and image--these poems are more than gems, they are the truth, not only about the Cuban-American experience, but of our collective experience in the United States,
a beautiful land of gypsies."
"Richard Blanco's City of a Hundred Fires
lights up the American literary scene with a fresh new vigor and voice that takes its place at the front rank of poetry. . . entrancing a wide audience with the music of its language,
its beautiful evocation of loss, love and hope."
"In this remarkable first book Richard Blanco speaks in a wise, compassionate voice that finds beauty in loss and takes bright lessons from despair.
These are poems that hurt and heal."
--Gustavo Perez Firmat