Hey Richard, U2 is on the line

Alumnus’ poem sets the tone for “Joshua Tree” tour

Each night, as U2 prepares to take to the stage, the band reminds its fans we are all living under one sky in this one today.

The message comes in the form of Richard Blanco’s poem “One Today,” which is projected on giant screens as part of a poetry anthology put on display for U2 fans before the concert begins.

“We head home — through the gloss of rain or weight of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home, always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping of every rooftop and every window, of one country — all of us — facing the stars.”

The tour marks the 30th anniversary of U2’s breakthrough album, “The Joshua Tree,” which explored the American experience during the 1980s. For the anniversary tour, the band chose poetry to both honor the legacy of “The Joshua Tree” and to ignite conversations about the current political climate. “One Today” was written in 2013 for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. It would’ve been tough to find a larger stage for his poem, but when someone called from U2’s production company recently, Blanco realized his ode to the American experience was about to go on tour.

“The poem still carries the same message,” Blanco said. “We’re a great experiment. The American people have always strived, and continue to strive, to be one people. We can live in great harmony.”

Blanco, who earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and master’s in creative writing from FIU, is drawn to socially minded poetry and, in addition to being an inaugural poet, was selected to write and recite a poem for the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba in 2015. For him, poetry is a way to promote healing, spark hope and inspire change.

“One Today” follows America over the course of one day. Blanco incorporates real-world events, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, as well as sights and sounds from urban and rural landscapes. Throughout the 558-word poem, he returns to the idea of “oneness.”

“When I first read it, it was a celebration of who we were. Today, it’s become more of a reminder of where we should be or need to be,” Blanco said.

Few bands are recognized globally for their commitment to social causes like U2 and their music often centers around social and political issues. A lifelong fan of the band, Blanco hopes this multimedia effort will get people thinking about the world today while connecting more people to poetry.

“U2 tries to raise consciousness with their music. I try to do that with my poetry as well,” Blanco said. “Music and poetry share the same DNA. They are about feeling. To have the two come together everything just clicks. Kudos to U2 for using poetry in such a phenomenal way to reach people.”

Evelyn S. Gonzalez contributed to this story.