Richard Blanco shares poetry with MD

Rowan Mally, Staff Writer

Last week on Tuesday, critically acclaimed poet Richard Blanco was featured at a Middle Division (MD) Assembly, speaking on global issues. Blanco used his past experiences as a gay man and the son of immigrants to draw connections to today’s topics, including gun violence, climate change, and racism.
“Schools don’t get special opportunities like this all the time and I hope we realize how fortunate we are to have speakers like Richard Blanco come through to our school,” Head of the MD Javaid Khan said.
Blanco’s ability to artfully dissect global issues resonated with Ariella Frommer (8), she said. “I found the assembly to be very deep and thoughtful. It didn’t feel like he was just reading a poem–it felt like he was performing them.”
Ashley Kuo (6) also found Blanco’s performance to be “really interesting and eye opening,” she said.
Blanco’s words were able to evoke various emotions among the students, even well after the assembly was held, Ashely Scherer (8) said. “I feel that [Blanco’s] poems brought about a feeling of sadness,” she said, referring to one of Blanco’s poems addressing the rapid climate change. While his work left her with a heavy heart regarding issues pertinent to the globe, “I also felt his poems brought about feelings of hope and determination,” Scherer said.
Frommer also found his poetry to be informative. “His poem about the Parkland shooting really reinforced the dangers of gun violence,” Frommer said. “I thought his poem outlining the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest really opened my eyes to the situation,” Scherer said.
Yash Chowdhry (7) was “really surprised to learn about how recently the last lynching in the U.S. was–I found it pretty scary,” he said.
“In terms of the event itself, he was really phenomenal, he brought his poetry to the level where middle schoolers could access it,” Khan said. “When Mr. Blanco and I spoke beforehand, I told him that he could really push the envelope with these kids as we have a really vibrant and bright academic community.”
Blanco was incredibly impressed with the MD students, Khan said. “He even relayed to myself and Dr. Kelly how impressed he was with our students and felt that they were fully immersed in his poems. I think that definitely speaks to the types of students and teachers we have,” Khan said.
In preparation for the assembly, Khan and Blanco also discussed Blanco’s poems and their central theme of social justice, Khan said. “[Blanco] wanted to focus on work regarding social justice, and I told him that we as a community did a lot of similar work as well. I added that any topics that he brought up could always be followed up in advisory,” Khan said.
“In advisories we discussed what we thought about Blanco’s poems, and how they connected to greater societal issues,” Scherer said. They also talked about Blanco’s past achievements, highlighting his work as the 2013 Inaugural Poet for President Barack Obama, she said.
“A couple classes even sat down and wrote really thoughtful thank you notes to Mr. Blanco. Students discussed what spoke to them from Blanco’s work and how their own stories that related to [those themes],” Khan said.
Khan hopes that “each student took away what they needed from Mr. Blanco’s poems and the assembly. Whether it be resonating with his story or being inspired by his words, I hope each student took away something that was meaningful to them,” he said.
“I found it really interesting that he did not even consider becoming a poet growing up, and rather wanted to be an engineer. This just shows that true dreams and callings may not arise until later in your life. It’s really never too late to follow your dreams,” Scherer said.