An Analysis of “Looking for the Gulf Motel” by Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco still remains one of the most renowned American poets. He is famous for his profound eloquence and, most recently, for reading one of his poems during President Barrack Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco is a second generation Cuban immigrant who has always been proud of his cultural identity and his inexorable sense of displacement it causes him within the wider American society. Looking for The Gulf Motel is his third poetry book focusing on family heritage, childhood, the transition to adulthood, gender stereotypes and the undercurrents of long-term relationships. The author focuses on life as a Cuban exile in his first movement and cultural identity while seeking to understand the meaning of “home.” “Looking for The Gulf Motel” is Blanco’s opening title poem which sets the tone for the first movement and his experience at a Floridian motel that he once visited with his kin. It is an attempt to dig deep into the past and reconstruct a lost childhood vacation through vivid poetry.

A reminiscing tone pervades the poem as Blanco fondly remembers his motel visit while with his family on vacation in Florida. Although it is a time lost to him and far back in the past, he seeks to retrieve it with poetry as his conduit. It is well apparent that the author has a vivid memory, allowing him to recover and detail his childhood experience accurately. Blanco also goes beyond the typical self-referential attitude that most autobiographers adopt when detailing events that are now stored in the depths of their memories. There is no doubt that he presents a reliable recollection.  He even goes as far as reminding the reader that he genuinely does remember these events. The poignant refrain which appears on four different occasions reads:  “There should be nothing here I don’t remember…” (Blanco, 2012, p. 1).  Blanco uses his reminiscing tone expertly to remind the reader of the attachment he has with these memories and their importance to him. In addition to this, the haunting refrain is italicized which indicates his resolve when presenting the recollection while still being committed to a level of artful resurrection.

Blanco also uses imagery to represent objects and a number of his ideas in ways that would appeal to any reader’s physical senses. It is also through imagery that the author manages to use words that accurately create visual illustrations in the reader’s mind. He begins by using several visual images that aim to appeal to the reader’s sense of sight. For instance, Blanco relates a memory he has of his mother while she hurries to prepare a meal in the kitchenette. He describes the “daisy sandals” to the reader to paint a picture of his mother’s trendy wear while on vacation in Florida (Blanco, 2012, p. 1). Blanco also proceeds to paint auditory images to appeal to his reader’s sense of sound. He describes how his mother’s daisy sandals were essentially “squeaking across the linoleum” which presents an actual auditory image. Blanco’s ubiquitous use of vivid descriptions, therefore, provides the readers with an accurate delineation of his memories critical in understanding his childhood.

“Looking for The Gulf Motel” was also written with sound and rhythm being on the author’s mind. The poem is quite musical which also serves its primary purpose since it creates more conversational movements.  The tonal pattering also suggests that Blanco aimed to create a poetic masterpiece that adhered to the established standards. There are numerous instances where the author uses alliteration to draw attention to specific ideas that he seeks to communicate to his readers. For instance, Blanco writes, “and ship’s wheel in the lobby should still be rising out…” (Blanco, 2012, p. 1). The repetition of the “s” and “l” sounds signifies their importance to the author and also the fact that they are being used to convey a specific meaning related to the key themes under discussion. These sounds also create a sense of rhythm in the poem which ensures the use of a steady beat. In addition to this, the author also uses consonance which is often applied in quick succession. He refers to describes “scruffy suitcases” which produces an unexpected rhyme.

Blanco also uses figures of speech to develop his poem and make it more interesting. He starts by using similes to ignite the reader’s imagination and communicate the poem’s central themes.  Blanco claims that: “The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts and ship’s wheel in the lobby should still be rising out of the sand like a cake decoration” (Blanco, 2012, p. 1).  His comparison of the lampposts rising out of the sand akin to a cake decoration is fundamental to the development of the poem since the readers can create a mental image of the comparison. The author also uses hyperbole to emphasize the extreme exaggerations he presents to the readers. Their arrival at the motel in Florida is described as an embarrassing affair for the boys since their parents a lot of luggage and mangoes that were enough to last then an entire week. The author uses this overstatement to evoke humor from the situation from the fact that the family was unable to afford eating out during their vacation. In conclusion, Richard Blanco uses poetry as an outlet to express his sentiments about various periods in his life. “Looking for The Gulf Motel” captures his childhood experience succinctly as the author seeks to dig deep into the past. Blanco uses a reminiscing tone, imagery, rhythm, and figures of speech to enhance the reader’s experience as he takes them down memory lane.

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