Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We love how there is so much context to pull from these short poems, particularly “Sad Music.” What would the man have finished yelling, had the music not left him?

Dominic Blanco: My response is to leave this question unanswered. I could assume what the man would have finished yelling, but my poetic practice involves resisting the temptation to impose my subjectivity. When I encountered the man, he was already in distress. It all happened so fast. I think that’s why the missing period at the end is so important. It leaves the moment wide open. My poetic practice also involves an interest in the poet as witness. That means being radically introduced to situations as they happen with little to no context at all and leaving them as I came. Ultimately, we’ll never know what man would have finished yelling, I was already past.

RR: In “What We Do,” there is almost a complacency that is touched on about the education system that mingles with a lack of motivation to achieve something beyond ‘okay.’ Do you feel it is complacency that we are struggling with, or is it an affliction given life’s hardships?

DB: It seems to me in today’s epoch that we are not struggling with complacency but its metamorphosis into a kind of dissatisfaction towards the current circumstances we face as individuals and as a collective. It’s that the hardships are so large and so many, no longer black and white. I asked my brother your question and he thinks we’ve been bought out by the political economy. In the end, whatever the reason why, we want to see the conditions improve while making it through our lives relatively unscathed. Although that is not possible, it feels like the wounds right now are more open than ever been because of how aware we are of them. I don’t blame anyone for being complacent to mitigate that pain. The expanse of a single day lived can be enough for a lifetime.

RR: These poems are short but they pack such a lasting punch. Can you talk about how you approach crafting short pieces with so much complexity?

DB: So much of the idea of poetry seems to me pompous or an exaggeration, although I do think that has already been changing. I also have a hard time trying to faithfully replicate my thoughts and feelings as they are encountered into a medium like poetry. I know that’s not the point, but I do try to get poetry as close to those ‘moments of conviction’ that American poet George Oppen was after. If the poem is short, then the poet must consider what are its essential parts. I like saying a lot in a little. In shortening the poem there naturally arises complexity because so much detail and narrative information has been left out. Not everything can or has to be captured, but everything can be considered. I put that onus on the reader to ponder what’s not there.

RR: You have described your relationship with poetry as “tempestuous.” Could you elaborate on that? Has that relationship changed at all?

DB: When I say tempestuous, I use the synonyms wild and lively. The feeling I get from writing poetry is the closest I’ve come to the feeling of ecstasy. That being said, my relationship to that intensity has definitely changed. I’ve evened out now. I’m much more tamed. Experience has done that. I agree with Reinaldo Arenas who said that having a better understanding of craft made him write fewer and fewer poems. I’m very aware now when I am writing poetry. I too write fewer and fewer poems for that reason. Now I’m patient, waiting for the poetic moment to come to me. That doesn’t mean not trying to write poetry. In no way am I suggesting to ‘wait and feel it,’ but poetry has its ephemeral properties—it comes to us from beyond us, and so to recognize when that’s the case, we can’t be overtly tempestuous.

RR: Miami to Chicago is quite the change in scenery. If you had to give tourists advice for both cities, what would you say? Anything goes.

DB: You said it! I’d say be prepared for a complete one-eighty: the Midwest is nothing like the east coast and vice versa. To the tourists visiting Chicago, depending on the season, be prepared for the cold and gray clouds. Be prepared for brick and the post-industrial aesthetic. Be prepared to walk and use public transportation. Be prepared for diversity and don’t let the headlines about crime deter you from visiting. Explore the neighborhoods and not just downtown; enjoy eating from a vast array of cultures; enjoy the park and boulevard system, there is nothing quite like it in any other American city.

To the tourists visiting Miami, be prepared for incessant and constant humidity. It would be wise to bring multiple outfits. Be prepared for each home and building to be mostly symmetrical to each other. Be prepared to drive as public transportation in the city has historically been poor. Eat lots of Cuban food where and when you can. Go and enjoy the beach; feel the sun against your skin and don’t forget to apply sunscreen!


Read “Sad Music Heard on Mozart Street and What We Do, We Do Poorly” by Dominic Blanco in Issue 11.1.