BX1 Bronx Artist Festival

BX1 Bronx Artist Festival @ Downtown Bronx Café
(Corner of 149th St & Walton Ave)
Wednesday, June 1st 8:00-9:30 pm FREE!

No Imports – An evening of poetry with featured artist Bonafide Rojas. Additional readings from past BRIO – winners Elizabeth Bassford, Oscar Bermeo, Thomas Glave, Janet Kaplan, Mindy Matijesivic, Pedro Pacheco, and Rick Pernod.(8:00-9:30pm)

No Imports is part of the BX1 Bronx Artist Festival showcasing the talents of Bronx artists who are past winners of the borough’s BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Individual Artist Fellowship, a product of the Bronx Council on the Arts’ mission to support and nurture Bronx artists. The BX1 Bronx Artist Festival is a celebration of these artists’ continued dedication to excellence as well as to honor those who have continued to live, work and produce art in the Bronx.

Artist Bios:
Bronx native Elizabeth Bassford is a 2001 BRIO winner and author of Yard Song, a collection of poems about her experiences in Jamaica, where she lived and worked for several years. She serves on the board of Exoterica and Poetz.com, co-hosts the Bronx poetry/music festival WORD, and is an education consultant with Scott Foresman.

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the founding curator and host of the Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase, a founder of the synonymUS experimental poetry workshop, and a member of the louderARTS Project. Oscar has been a featured performer at 13 Bar|Lounge, the Nuyorican Poets Café, the Bowery Poetry Club, St. Marks Church, Columbia University, Illinois State University (Normal), William Paterson University, Amherst College, Syracuse University, New York University and many others. His written work appears in the anthologies, I Just Hope It’s Lethal: Poems of Sadness, Madness, and Joy (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), From Page to Stage and Back Again (Wordsmith Press, 2004) and Parse (Friendly Fire Press, 2004) and can also be heard on the CD, 5 Past 13- A Little Bit Louder: Volume 1 (louderARTS Project, 2003).

Thomas Glave’s collection Whose Song? and Other Stories appeared from City Lights Books in October 2000, and was nominated by the American Library Association for their “Best Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year” award, by the Quality Paperback Book Club for their Violet Quill Award, and was named a Notable Book of 2000 by the Lambda Book Report. He has recently completed a second collection, The Trials of Taran J. and Other Not-Fictions, and is working on a novel, a collection of essays, and an anthology of contemporary Caribbean lesbian and gay writing. His awards include two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, an O. Henry Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a fellowship from the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown. Born in the Bronx and raised there and in Kingston, Jamaica, Glave was named a “Writer on the Verge” by The Village Voice in 2000.

Janet Kaplan’s two poetry collections are The Glazier’s Country, winner of the 2003 Poets Out Loud Prize from Fordham University Press, and The Groundnote, winner of the 1997 Alice James Books New England / New York competition. New work from Dreamlife of a Philanthropist, a book-in-progress, has appeared or is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, Open City, and Sentence, among others.. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including fellowships at Yaddo, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation in Illinois. She teaches poetry and creative writing at Hofstra University.

Writer and actress Mindy Matijasevic grew up in the Bronx, graduated from Lehman College in 1978, and began working as a social worker in her childhood neighborhood. She currently teaches at Lehman College’s Adult Learning Center. She was in a benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Lovinger Theatre, and in A Chicken and Its Breast which was part of the 2004 Fringe Festival, and independent films Dancing with Kendra, Third Age, and Helen. She also appeared in David Byrne’s video Red, Hot, and Blue and in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. Mindy gives poetry readings throughout New York City and has had her work published in numerous print and on-line publications (most recently www.doorway2themind.com and www.roguescholars.com). She runs the Hidden Treasure Reading Series at Johnny O’s on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx.

Rick Pernod teaches creative writing at City College. He also administers the National Arts Club “High School Writing Contest.” For twelve years, he was director of Exoterica, the Bronx-based, award-winning literary series in the Bronx. Rick’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications, most recently in the anthology Blues for Bill. He also had his work recently translated into Spanish for the Nicaraguan Journal 400 Elefantes.

Pedro Pacheco (Dro Golden) is an MC with a passion for social consciousness and a devotion to the honesty and integrity of his hip-hop roots. Dro Golden was raised in the Bronx, New York and began rhyming at thirteen, “The Bronx is the birthplace of both hip-hop and my love for hip-hop” says Dro. He teaches poetry to junior high school and high school students at the Nelson Avenue and Jackson Avenue Family Shelters. Dro has performed throughout New York City at such venues as CBGB’s, Nell’s, Jimmy’s Uptown, The Nuyorican Poets’ Café, The Baggot Inn, The Bowery Poetry Club, and in Los Angeles at The El Rey Theatre, as well as at many colleges, including Columbia University, NYU, Rutgers University, Temple University, Stoneybrook, Manhattan College, Baruch College, Hunter College and even The Bronx Zoo.

BX1: Bronx Artist Festival 2005 honoring the individual artists who have been acknowledged over the past 16 years by our Bronx Recognizes It’s Own (BRIO) Awards. Since 1989, more than 160 artists have been recognized for their BX1: Bronx Artist Festival 2005 will especially focus on the talents of Bronx artists working and growing in the visual, performing and literary arts (Acting, Choreography, Dance, Instrumental and Vocal Music Performance, Music Composition, Performance Art (non-traditional), Performance Poetry, Spoken Word and Storytelling, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry, and Screenwriting).

The event will continue as a biennial tradition and target different neighborhoods in the Bronx in an effort to highlight the important of the arts throughout the borough.

The BRIO Awards began in 1998 and continues to target those individual artists living in the Bronx. Former BRIO winners include musician Ray Vega (“Boperation”), choreographer Merian Soto (Merian Soto Dance and Performance), and choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women).

Visit BCA’s website for updated information on BX1: Bronx Artist Festival 2005 as well as other of BCA’s programs & events

love ya, java hut!

travelin back to new york with marc anthony and la india blaring on the radio. tata is rockin a dam good tune while profe and fish are keepin themselves entertained with parodies. i love it.

the poets asylum was all that and some seasoned bagel chips. them worcester folks is MAD rowdy and damn good listeners. lets start with the cold hard facts:

Sorta Rican
Spanglish- The New Mother Tongue
Poem for the Hispanics who insist on mispronouncing
the menu items at the Chino-Latino restaurant
The New York Times finally got it right
when they took the R out of my “a’ight”
Paying the Toll
Carried Game by Jai Chakrabarti
Where’s the new shit, O?
She Reads The Letter, Oblivious To The Fact
That She Missed Her Stop Fifteen Minutes Ago
My Father Teaches Me The Aesthetics of Poetry At Age 8
Getting Ronald Reagan to Visit the South Bronx
Anything to Declare?
About B-Boys in the Boogie Down
Oda Para Leticia
Zero Hour at the Event Horizon
Mercy on the Battlefield

whew! the biggest challenge of putting together this set was mixing up the pieces where i could keep the energy up and moving. not all of my pieces end on definitive notes and that leaves some audiences scratchin their heads wonderin exactly how i could be on the mic for so long and NOT detail exaclty how republicans lie, the blueprint for ending racism and the date poetry will be the new TV.

luckily the java hut crowd is not looking for that. instead, they are on the hunt for strong lines, good imagery and tight metaphor and their feedback says they found some of that in my work.

the initial set list was pretty rich with the spanglish so i threw in Cartography in there to break that up and to also perform it with some early feature high energy. in bodybuilding, you work out your weak body parts early to let them catch up with your stronger body parts. same concept here.

from there the ‘short poem’ part of the night to the ‘new shit’ but i cant assume they are goona vibe with the short poems and sometimes the new shit is a lil TOO new so i break it up with Paying the Toll (kinda short, kinda new and funny finish) and Carried Game (ya didnt know Jai wrote a poem about Latinos playin soccer did ya?)

from the new stuff to the core of this set. the ‘where im from’ section. it feels good to gice the bronx a good shout out and unless i come up with a new poem, this may well be the set for the BX1 Festival (more details soon to come)

more on the ‘where i’m from’ tip but this time focusing on ecuador and then Zero Hour which got a very strange reaction. something i was kinda expecting as its one of my more surreal pieces. no worries cuz from there we end on the ol stand by.

the flow went near perfect. my banter was also dead on. with me telling good stories without giving away the core of the poems or apologizing for anything.

preparation was the key here. i had this set list in my head for the last 24 hours and had all the poems ready to go. with the good flow and personal satisfaction i am gettin from She Reads The Letter and About B-Boys, i wasnt stressin out that i didnt have NEW new shit and just focused on gettin down the flow.

the last time i had to put together a 30 min set was for the Syracuse Univeristy reading and i damn near crapped myself in the process with an end result that was not the bestfeedback ive ever received. amazing what 8 months does. this time around i had extra(!) poems in my holster. a full ten more poems i could have busted out if need be.

the highlight of the evening was presenting Tony Brown with a copy of the set list and all the poems (cept for Jai’s as i only had one copy on me). tony is a poet’s poet and i was happy to give a lil sumthin back to him.

did i mention that the Acentos crew rocked out? hell yes! they all brought the fire and i was happy to acknowkledge them from the mic.

the cherry on top– chapbook sales… thru the roof!

okey dokes, i need some sleep.

love ya like the pocket knife i carry just cuz

the quick recap

i dont have time to go into all the details but i really want to post this up before it joins the graveyard of posts that i dont get around to actually putting on the blog

-Brooklyn Back Break Beat
-Hosting 101
-She Reads The Letter, Oblivious To The Fact That She Missed Her Stop Fifteen Minutes Ago
-My Father Teaches Me The Aesthetics Of Poetry At Age 8
-Brand Name
-Right Here in the Bronx

the set went aight, i think. it was by no means a standout performance. with the exception of BBBB all these poems are less than 90 days old. with a room full of friends that have all heard me bust out the hits, i didnt think i had much of a choice. some of the words were like taffy in my mouth, they taste good but still leave my tongue heavy. at any rate, this is a great warmup to worcester where i can mix up more of the older work with this fresh stuff and we’ll see what happens.

go outside and pick a flower

lets go to the video tape!

the tale of the tape

Where’s the new shit, O?
Zero Hour at the Event Horizon*
The Perfect Omelet*
Federico Gracia-Lorca’s “Dawn
like dawn in new york*
Paying the Toll*
America: My First Love Poem
Spanglish- The new mother tongue*
Poem for the Hispanics who insist on mispronouncing the menu items at the Chino-Latino restaurant
Anything to Declare?*
Let me end it with this…
* new hotness

your thoughts on preparing for the match?
actually, some of the new hotness had already been performed but they did get edited (especially “Paying the Toll”) also “America: My First Love Poem” was written for the DC feature last year but i have rarely read it.

the theme of the set was the whole immigrant experience with 8 of the 11 poems dealing specfically with that topic. how did i come to that revelation? easy- i knew that the classic would be “Sorta-Rican” the rest then kinda fell into place.

speaking of which, “Sorta” was the gem of my solo feature from last year and this year’s gem is a tie between “Paying the Toll” and “Anything to Declare?” i really like the fact that one is a definite shift away from my narrative style and that the other is an embrace of my narrative in the direction of straight prose.

the other poems in the set include my handshake to the crowd, a new kind of poem that is weird in its structure yet still delivers the goods, (there was also a satirical rendition of my NYFA artist statement that i threw in for fear that i didnt have enough material), the obligatory love poem, and then the lorca cover which actually IS an immigrant poem of sorts and kicks off the theme.

the ride to the big game
after getting some stuff to help with the knee pain (i was NOT limping to the stage- hell no!), i proceeded to hit the barber shop and get a good beard trim. the barber came through like gangbusters with a massage seat, face scrub, noxema, hot towel, face massage, astringent and a cool shave. praise the clippers & pass the martini!

i got to 13 mad early and was able to enjoy some great viet food as fish finds my ass and we proceed to talk and chow. let me say here, a highlight of the last few months have been the peace & calm between me & fish. werd.

upstairs to 13 which gets more & more packed by the minute. thank hay.zeus of orchard beach! i was seriously worried that the weekend blizzard was gonna have me reciting to 11 folks. (this poems is for YOU, and this one for YOU…) now the nerves start kicking in and i curse the gout for preventing me from taking a hike and showing up 10 minutes before and for not letting me take a sip of liquid courage. all for the best, i guess, because the way my nerves were acting up, i would have been toast by the time i hit the stage.

now why the nerves, you ask? basically, 13 is my home venue, the place where i talk mad shit, praise & not.so.praise folks, hang and walk around like if i’m a poet and very sonn that swagger will be put to the test. if i don’t deliver, the conversations will go down like this- “well, let me say this first, i really like oscar as a person but…” and you can figure out the rest. i am very sure of this because i have heard this conversation quite a number of times. this may be the WORST set of pre.feature jitters i have ever experienced. it may have to do with the fact that i did invest a bit into the layout of the feature. yep, that’s it. i am a little past the “start with a good piece/end with a good piece/and have fun in the middle” mind set that i had earlier on.

(a nice omen preceeds the feature as both rich & fish make the last round of the slam & luis cartegena gets the crowd away from the slam mind set with a great “sorbet” poem)

kick off!
once i am up there, the jitters are gone. cool thing of this set is that i have a lot of moments recorded in my mind. in contrast, i only recall a few things about the upperCASE and the CD recording zoomed by.

good set. horrible banter. what happened? i dont know but i think i would prefer it this way, ya know?

at this point, much thanks to ed & omar for sitting me down one day and encouraging me to use my wit in my poems. it was a tool i used to great effect for this set.

and i’m audi 5000!

in the locker room
as i’m leaving the stage, jayne pierce hits me up with some flowers (ahhhhhhhhh) and i see tata crying in a moment that almost gets me to cry and will forever go down as a piece of my personal history. i love you, jess. mad props soon follows and i can start to breathe easy.

i never count who comes to my gigs. either you do or you dont but let me tell you, all the right folks were there and here i praise UPHA for being there when it was just me & my pen, when all i had was one good poem. these ladies i also love madly.

a shout to Nuyo Clothing for giving me a cool shirt to wear on stage. buy their stuff!

matt, jess & maria on the open mic and all thats left is res which was mad mad fun.

the post game wrap up
i just heard the tape of the performance and for the first time EVER, i am not cringing at the sound my voice though i am wincing at the awful mic chatter i delivered. ;-) (thanks for tape, ray)

more shouts to guy, willie, ed & jeannie, rachel, raj, ellie, michele, peter, jessica elizabeth, scot, louder and especially to jai & nina for being there in spirit

i have been getting quite the number of compliments on the blog ring and i thank all you crazy mofos for the kind words, for reals.

in baseball, your pitcher is only as good as his next game. i guess in poetry, i am only as good as my next feature. this one is in the books and done. normally, i would brush it off and keep on truckin but on the real- i have had a lousy 6 weeks of arthritis pain & had some more of my past come back to bite me in the ass. guess what? i’m going to enjoy this glow for a little while. nights like moday dont happen all the time. i used to have rock star fantasies as a kid, picture myself on air guitar or drums or even as the lead singer. i never thought that shit would come to pass but it kinda has & life is too short to worry about the next feature.

yeah, i may just play the tape again and enjoy myself for once.

the sign off
love ya like if you helped make mah dreams come true

Party People/Party People

For the crew I run with, few things are better than scoring a good payday for your poetry. Most of the folks I know wouldn’t charge a dime to read their work for the right cause and what better cause than a brand new audience that isn’t judging you for any past reps or sheet like that. Throw in some loot and a few extras like complimentary lodging and airfare and you hit the jackpot! This is exactly what happened this Friday as I visited Syracuse U for La L.U.C.H.A.’s annual Cafe con Leche celebration.

I head to JFK, hop on board a plane and an hour later I am in the New York state highlands. How high? The locals were unanimous in their support for Bush… That’s how high!

They ask me to do a half hour set and while in the hotel room (Which was slammin’!) I have a near panic attack putting together the set list but pull it together in the end and get together a nice set that includes some new hotness in the mix.

Being pretty new to doing college readings, I first expected massive auditoriums of folks and then have settled for just a nice small room of listeners, which basically means, I don’t show up with any expectations any more. If I seem a little more spoiled in the future, blame Syracuse. These folks did it right- professional sound people, a real stage, catering a la jibaro with pernil, arroz con gandules, chicharon de pollo, empanada de pollo, empanada de res, maduros and the all time favorite, red Kool Aid! WEPA!! Add an awesome soundtrack (Thanks to co-feature, Shaggy Flores) and some of the best-dressed minorities in the highlands and for a minute, I thought I was at the Copa.

That’s the good news, with the bad news being that I am first up to bat. More jitters as the emcees announce me while Shaggy throws on Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican” and I am off to the races.

-Mercy on the Battlefield
-Getting Ronald Reagan to Visit the South Bronx (an intro into the short poem portion of our evening)
-Poem for the Hispanics Who Insist on Mispronouncing the Menu Items at the Chino-Latino Restaurant
-The New York Times Finally Got It Right When They Took the ‘R’ Out of My “Aight!”
-Martin Espada’s “Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands”
-Where’s the New Shit, O?
-Poem for Dia de los Muertos (new.hotness)
-Killing all the Stars (new.hotness)
Oda Para Leticia

In the “Reversal of Fortune” department, the poetry went over pretty well while my banter was wearing thin. I may be over exaggerating on how well the poetry went over cuz I could feel the crowd slipping from me towards the end of the set. I could blame it on “Leticia” but I actually hit some new highs reading that bad boy even though it was off the page. Ditto with the page version of “New Shit.” It was also cool finding the nerve to bust out some new.hotness at a feature though in actuality I needed it in the set maybe more to keep me on my toes than the audience. I front loaded this list with the golden oldies towards the front but I think I mixed in enough tonal shifts (TM Mara.Wherethehelldidmybloggo.Jebsen). The honest thing to say is that I may not have been the SLAM.riffic poet that a college (re: Friday Nuyo) audience wants to hear. Final grade would probably be a B+ but I know I gave these folks their money’s worth.

In preparation for last week’s louderTRIBUTE show, I memorized Yousef Komuyaaka’s “Blue Light Lounge Sutra for the Performance Poets at Harold Park Hotel” which now ranks as my all time fave how.to.dis.wack.ass.mofos.on.the.mic poem. There are some serious truths in this poem and it’s all done in a way that goes past being petty but still leaves a mark, ya know?

Let me end this tangent now before this turns into a novella. And end it with this lil ditty- I was at the Syracuse airport by 5 in the am so that I could make sure to be at work by 9am and as of this writing I have only enjoyed two bouts of one hour sleep in the last 40 hours. Poet rock star? Not yet. Not even close.

Love ya like freqent flyer miles!