“Papel, Ima tell ya a story”

* Piri Thomas’s succinct explanation of his writing ‘process’

Here is the breakdown from last week’s Kearny Street Workshop reading:
-A Personal History and Reflection on Sixty Years in Oakland from the Reverend JT (Excerpt)
-Random Acts of Storytelling: Overheard on BART
-an atlas of nationalism
-And God said “Vaya” (Excerpt)

I would have loved to throw in a cover piece but we were only given 6-8 minutes and I did not want to be a mic hog. This reading was a little bit more stressful than the last KSW reading since most of the readers dropped down pure fiction work and I had a mix of different work that I contributed to the chapbook and wanted to give a little shine to all the pieces.

You can find an early version of Reverend JT’s story here and make no mistake: It is his story. I was just lucky enough to have him share it with me. Even though I only read about two minutes of it, his story was the piece that I think most people really vibed with.

More appropriation as the Random Acts of Storytelling was a trio of snippets that I have overheard (or heard secondhand) while traveling through the Bay’s transit system.

The real challenge of the night was figuring out how to deliver atlas (unformatted first draft- here). A poem that I am really happy with but was unsure on how to deliver it or, more honestly stated, scared that the audience would not understand it. I don’t think I would have been so scared if I was being given say 12 minutes or so of mic time which just goes to show what a diva I have become. ;-)
Dense with purposefully abbreviated, disruptive syntax from an unclear, unreliable narrator, it is a challenging poem to present and I think I pulled it off. Maybe. I did end it with a firm and definitive “ThankYou” ala Willie Perdomo. So I am now four-for-four on today’s appropriation checklist.

And God said “Vaya” is actually the last line of Miguel Piñero’s Genesis According to San Miguelito (5-for-5) but the rest of the piece is all me and a pretty good start to my creative non-fiction career. A bit of a shout out as well to Miguel Algarin as his poetic challenge of a poet detailing his burial has been gnawing at me for a long time and while I haven’t figured it out in poetic form yet, I have figured some of it out in prose with this piece. Mind you, it’s not really me in the piece but it is very close to me. I didn’t read the excerpt that appears in the chapbook but instead went into a middle part where my character laments as to what has gone so wrong in the Bronx he remembers from his youth. And let me tell you, I don’t think I have ever read my writing with a genuine sustained sadness in my voice until now probably cuz I have never set out with the intent to be sad. Serious, yes. Somber, yes. Sad, no. Mostly cuz I think if I had set out to write something like this I would have failed miserably, very happy to report that this is not the case here.

Mad shouts to KSW, fearless editor Thy Tran and all my fellow workshoppers for putting together a dope ass chapbook.

All photos courtesy of Jay Jao

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1 Comment

  1. Hi oscar!

    comment ca va?
    thanks for paris poem. . .
    looks like you’re up to some good stuff,
    congrats & goodluck!

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