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Writer Ruth Behar and poet Richard Blanco have launched Bridges to/from Cuba, an ambitious collaborative fueled by 20 years of friendship. The duo has started an online forum for poets, authors and scholars to “lay bare the laughter and sorrow of being Cuban.”

As geopolitics shift, these two Cuban Americans call out for literature, writing, “For it is not simply a political and economic embargo that needs to be ‘lifted,‘ but also the weight of an emotional embargo that has kept Cubans collectively holding their breath for over fifty years.”

The two are uniquely positioned to lead. Blanco, inaugural poet for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, has brought out two memoirs on his life as a young, gay, Latino immigrant. Born to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami, Blanco’s poetry threads through themes of cultural identity and belonging. New Yorker Ruth Dehar, born in Cuba, teaches anthropology at the University of Michigan. In the early 1990s, Behar was editor of Bridges to Cuba, a groundbreaking anthology featuring voices in the Cuban Diaspora, including many second generation writers.

The pair crafts a beautifully symbolic first post, a fusion of two poems: “The Island Within,” for Ruth Behar (by Richard Blanco) and “The Island We Share,” for Richard Blanco (by Ruth Behar). Read along here.

The project brings a bit of Anisfield-Wolf flavor to the party: two former winners, Edwidge Danticat and Sandra Cisneros, serve on the five-member advisory board.