Poetry is our only real country

I first traveled to Cuba from Boston when I was a barely published poet, at a time when those who worked against the US blockade of Cuba faced threats and sometimes murderous retaliation. I made a second trip a year later. After our translator Lilia Berta learned that I loved poetry and was trying to write it, she began to call me “Poeta.”

For that trip, “Poeta” became my name in Cuba. And for the first time, I experienced my deep desire to express my vision of the world with the power and music of language as something respected, nurtured, and recognized by society. This valuing of the arts, this belief that all can create, enjoy, and understand art, is something the Cuban Revolution is known for. This is a place that values ability, effort, and desire to create over résumés, a place that cultivates love and understanding of the arts. This is a place I would return to.

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