Alberto Blanco

(Mexico City)

Biography of Alberto Blanco

Alberto Blanco is considered one of Mexico's most important poets. Born in Mexico City on February 18, 1951, he spent his childhood and adolescence in that city, and he studied chemistry at the Universidad Iberoamericana and philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. For two years, he pursued a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies, specializing in China, at El Colegio de México.1 Blanco was first published in a journal in 1970. He was co-editor and designer of the poetry journal El Zaguan (1975–1977), and a grant recipient of the Centro Mexicano de Escritores (Mexican Center of Writers, 1977), el Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (the National Institute of Fine Arts, 1980), and the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (National Fund for Culture and Arts, 1990). In 1991 he received a grant from the Fulbright Program as a poet-in-residence at the University of California, Irvine; and, in 1992, he was awarded a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He was admitted into the Sistema Nacional de Creadores (National System of Creative Artists) in 1994, for which he has also been a juror. In 2001 he received the Octavio Paz Grant for Poetry, and in 2008, he was awarded a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation. He remains a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores.

Blanco’s literary output has been very abundant and varied, and he has undertaken three genres: first, poetry, followed by essays, and, finally, translations. He has published twenty-six books of poetry in Mexico and additional books in other countries; ten books of his translations of the work of other poets; and twelve story books for children, some of which have been illustrated by his wife Patricia Revah. His work has been translated into twenty languages, including English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Bulgarian, Zapotec, and Russian.2

In 1997 he accepted a residency in Bellagio, Italy, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation; and in 2000 he was invited as a resident poet at the Poetry Center of the University of Arizona. He was also invited to inaugurate the program, “La Universidad de la Poesía" ("The University of Poetry”), in Chile, where he gave readings, lectures, and workshops in various cities in that country.

Blanco has been involved in many of the most important poetry festivals in the world and has given many courses, workshops, readings, and lectures in more than fifty universities in the United States as well as in France, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Ireland, El Salvador, Chile, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, and Finland.

To date, he has published more than seventy books, along with twenty more of translations, anthologies, or illustrations as well as more than eight hundred publications in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, and literary supplements. More than 200 essays, reviews, and commentaries on his work have been published both in Mexico and other countries; more than sixty interviews with him have appeared. His poems are included in more than a hundred anthologies, have been studied in various master’s and doctoral theses, and have been included in a dozen dictionaries and textbooks. His total publications exceed 1400.

In 1988 he received the Carlos Pellicer Poetry Prize for his book Cromos, and in 1989 the José Fuentes Mares National Prize for Literature for Song to the Shadow of the Animals, a book that unites his poems with drawings by Francisco Toledo. In 1996 Insects Also Are Perfect received honors from IBBY in the Netherlands. In 2002 he received the “Alfonso X (the Wise)” award for excellence in literary translation from San Diego State University in California.

There are five anthologies of his poems: Amanecer de los Sentidos, published by the National Council for Culture and the Arts in Mexico in 1993; Dawn of the Senses, a bilingual anthology that included a dozen translators, published by City Lights, in San Francisco, in 1995, with a second edition in 2013; De vierkantswrotel can de hemel, Gedichten, translated into Dutch by Bart Vonck and published by Wagner and Van Santen in the Netherlands, 2002; and A Cage of Transparent Words, edited by Paul B. Roth, translated by eight translators, and published by The Bitter Oleander Press of New York; and Hacia el mediodía, which was published in 2013 in Spain by Editorial Pre-Textos.

In 1998, El Corazon del Instante (The Heart of the Moment), a compilation of twelve volumes of poetry that included twenty-five years (1968–1993) of work was published in a series of major Mexican works; and in 2005 a second compilation of another twelve books of poetry entitled La Hora y la Neblina (The Hour and the Mist) was published in the same series by the same publisher (Fondo de la Cultura Economica).

In 2011, the Bitter Oleander Press published a bilingual edition of his book, Tras el Rayo, entitled Afterglow translated by Jennifer Rathbun. Also, in 2011, Blanco's first book of poetics (El llamado y el don (The Calling and the Gift) was published by AUIEO in Mexico City, who, in 2013, published the second volume of poetics, La poesía y el presente (Poetry and the Present). A third volume is expected in a few years.

Blanco has collaborated with numerous painters, sculptors and photographers, and his essays on the visual arts are published in many catalogs and magazines. In 1998 they were collected in one volume: Las voces del ver (The Voices of Vision). This book served as a basis for a television series of programs with the same name which were shown on Mexican television. A new edition (800 pages), revised and augmented of his essays on visual arts, was published in 2012, entitled El eco de las formas (The Echo of Forms).

In fact, Alberto Blanco is well known as a visual artist; his collages have appeared in many books and journals, and his paintings have hung in national galleries. He has had several showings in California, and in 2007, exhibited 108 collages in the Estación Indianilla in Mexico City, along with recent sculptures by Leonora Carrington. Equally noteworthy are his artist’s books which form part of important collections in various universities in the United States. In 2011, The Athenaeum in La Jolla, California, mounted a retrospective exhibit of forty years of Blanco's artist's books entitled "Visual Poetry/Poesía Visual." ((http://www.ljathenaeum.org/exhibitions.html.) in 2015, the CECUT (Centro Cultural de Tijuana) plans a major retrospective exposition of his work in collage.

Furthermore, Blanco has been a songwriter, and he was the singer and keyboardist in the rock and jazz groups “La Comuna” (“The Commune”) and “Las Plumas Atómicas” ("The Atomic Plumes"). His poetry dedicated to rock are collected in the book Paisajes en el oido (Earscapes), published by Aldus in 2012(http://paisajeseneloido.blogspot.mx/).

Although he has dedicated himself chiefly to the writing of poetry and has not embarked on an academic career (in Mexico he has never taught at any institution), he was a full-time professor for three years (1993–1996) in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. At the end of 1996, he returned with his family to Mexico City, but in 1998 and 1999, he was invited as a distinguished professor to San Diego State University in California. In 2007 he was awarded an endowed chair, the Knapp Chair, for a semester at the University of San Diego. In 2009 and 2010, Blanco taught courses in art at Middlebury College, and he was invited to teach literature courses at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), in 2009 and 2010. He returned to Middlebury College in 2011.

PoemHunter.com Updates

The Parakeets

They talk all day
and when it starts to get dark
they lower their voices
to converse with their own shadows
and with the silence.

They are like everybody
—the parakeets—
all day chatter,

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