Beautiful Poem Celebrates Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana

Before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave his remarks at the August 14, 2015, formal opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba-American poet Richard Blanco gave a beautiful rendition of his beautiful poem that was commissioned by the U.S. State Department for the occasion: “Matters of the Sea” or “Cosas del Mar.” Appropriately as he spoke one could see the blue Caribbean Sea behind him in the YouTube video of the reading.[1]

Richard Blanco at U.S. Embassy in Havana
Richard Blanco at U.S. Embassy in Havana








The poem opens with these words: “The sea doesn’t matter. What matter is this—that we all belong to the sea between us. ” It closes with another call for the unity of the Cuban and American peoples: “Yet, yet we all hold seashells up to our ears. Listen again to the anthem. Today the sea is still telling us that the end to our doubts and fears is to gaze into the lucid blue of our shared horizon to breathe together, to heal together.”

Blanco’s comments about his poem also are inspiring. He said it is about “getting back to our own humanity, the shared humanity beyond the politics. In the end, it’s about coming to a place of healing, getting to that place where we can see each other as human beings.”

Moreover, the poem, he says, “is one of the most emotionally complex and personal poems I’ve ever written, invested with all my love for the people of two countries that are part of my very being. I’m elated by the power of poetry to mark such important, communal moments, and be a catalyst for change and understanding by reaching deep into our emotional selves and connecting us to our shared humanity.”

“Matters of the Sea/Cosas del Mar” is the title of a bilingual chapbook of his poems to be published this September by the University of Pittsburgh Press.[2]

On January 21, 2013, Blanco read another of his poems–“One Today”–at the second inaugural of President Barack Obama. Commissioned by Obama, this poem is the lead poem of another collection of Blanco’s poetry.

Soon after his Cuban parents fled Cuba, Richard was born in 1968 in Madrid Spain. Two months later, they all moved to the U.S. and eventually settled in Miami Florida where Richard grew up. In addition to being a writer, he is professional civil engineer.


[1] NPR, Poet Richard Blanco on U.S., Cuba: ‘We all Belong To The Sea Between Us” (Aug. 14, 2015); Whitefield, Poet Richard Blanco speaks of the sea and hope in Cuba, Miami Herald (Aug. 14, 2015); Geoffroy, WATCH: Gay Poet Richard Blanco Read His Poem “Matters of the Sea” at U.S. Embassy Opening in Cuba, Towleroad (Aug 14, 2015); American poet, Blanco, urges U.S., Cuba ‘to breathe together, to heal together,’ YouTube (Aug. 14, 2015); Lilly & Naverez, Cuban-American Richard Blanco: We All Belong to the Sea Between Us, NBC News (Aug. 14, 2015); Richard Blanco: Made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, imported to the USA; Poet, Richard Blanco.

[2] Univ. Pittsburg Press, Inaugural poet commissioned to write poem for Friday’s Cuban embassy ceremony; Univ. Pittsburg Press, Matters of the Sea/Cosas del mar.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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