Giving back…

Since this adventure has started, I have been trying to hit every Open Mic I can find and have done everything from being silent audience member to flat reader to stellar performer… rinse, lather, repeat (meaning—going through the cycle again. one of my all time favorite euphemisms!)

Eventually, I will be the type of writer who can consistently go on the mic and always account well for himself. Be able to read new off-page material that is both immediate & pertinent and reprise wonderful familiar tomes that create an instantaneous connection with the crowds (remember—more than three is a crowd) of people who are listening to my work. In front of me are many role models who I have the pleasure/luck of being able to call friend. From time to time, in the middle of being cantankerous jack-asses, I will ask key questions in regard to writing & performing. This is my good fortune and I don’t take this blessing lightly. I respect the space my friends have allowed me to enter, try not to intrude much and behave as a well mannered guest. The Gemini in me, note title of Journal, realizes the circular nature of this existence and am now seeing it come right back at me.

I don’t think I am all that on the mic but I sure act like I do.

I have not had a serious writing class in my life but I sure talk like if I did.

I am my own personal PR machine and it works. You believe that you are a certain persona and act accordingly as the world accommodates itself to this image. As such, new poets are viewing me with a similar reverence as I have to my mentors. I am not going to name them but I know who they are and I make it a point to treat them with the same respect and compassion that has been accorded to me. This shit sounds really sanctimonious but I really believe it.

No one had to befriend me at Bar13. I was quite happy hanging out by myself in the back. In fact, the ability to enjoy poetry on my own was one of the things that automatically endeared me to this new world. I was loving listening to poetry all by myself. Same with going on the mic, it was a wonderful self-indulgent moment. Then someone noticed me on the mic and went out of their way to encourage me. Compliments and critiques followed. Some acknowledgement in print. Reprinting of a poem. Being asked to feature. All of this has turned me into a better writer, performer and ultimately—person.

And it all could have, just as easily, never happened and I could still be in the back of the room writing insipid verse and performing it with an unsure voice.

This is not the journal entry I thought I was going to write.

This is an acknowledgement to Guy, Lynne, Roger, Fish, Seve, George, Ray, Sabrina, DSL, Franklin, Berzin, Vixi, Ed, Omar, e(g), Marty, Yolanda, Ebony, Felice, Elana, Bob, Chance… damn, it’s a lot of people and all their contributions are so different and so key.

Some of these names are here because they have kept pushing me all the time.

Some of these people may not even know why there names are here.

All of them dropped something into my poetic hat and it has all come back to em.

Soon, I am going to start a new reading series and there will be a whole new group of people coming to the mic. They will find a voice that they didn’t know they had and I am going to be a part of that and I am going to take the responsibility very seriously.

Oscar? Mr Spielberg will see you now

January is just about over and it has been quite the month poetically. The CD recording was one of the most exhilarating & anti-climatic moments of my life. I arrived at 13 pretty early and was happy to be back; the thing about Mondays is that something is BOUND to happen. It may be the worst poem you have ever heard, it may be the best poem you ver heard, it could be being called a ‘spic’ by a drunk 92lb WASP, it could be meeting that poet you always wanted to and then getting dissed, it could be anything.

Expecting the crowd to be rowdy and disruptive I was prepared for the worst and was happy to be proven wrong. I was helping out with crowd control and had some influence over who did and did not get it… “There is no list, tonight!”

My other unofficial duty is as louderARTS photographer, so you would see me popping up, here and there, taking pics of the crowd or the performers. After performances by Lynne Procope, Bob Holman, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, F Omar Telan, Suheir Hammad and Ed Garcia came my turn. I got on stage, the music hit, did my Salsa poem and was out.

That’s how quick it felt. I purposefully slowed down the end line to the most relaxed cadence I could manage just to drag the experience out for a few more seconds. At that point, I really wished I had pressed to be one of the performers who does two pieces but it was too late for that now. I had a great time, heard amazing work and took some wonderful pics.

“a lil bit louder, vol.1” should be out by April, stay tuned.

Let’s fast forward to this last week and my first ever audition. I’m not going into details but it is for a commercial spot for a pretty big network who wanted to produce a commercial for it’s Latino constituency. In the middle of December, I received a forwarded e-mail that had some of the early details. On a whim, I reponded back as professionally as possible and submitted my Salsa poem, “Mercy on the Battelfield” as just the exact thing they were looking for and they agreed.

Yep, I got hit with an e-mail in the next few days;

“Trim it to 20 seconds and let’s take it from there…”

Hhhmmm, this poem is about two-and-a-half-minutes… editing it down to 30 seconds is going to be rough.

“… and translate it into Spanish.”

Lawd-ah-mercy! It was time to circle the wagons and call in the troops.

Yeah! Team Bermeo came through like a champ. My friend, Betty L, came through with the translation after I did the editing. My Dad helped out a ton by reciting the poem in correct Castellano, which I recorded. My boy Jose, who had been in commerical advertising for the last eight years, gave me audition pointers and the man himself, Roger Bonair-Agard, agreed to coach me.

This is what life is all about… having family and watching them come to your aid with a Coke and a smile.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was featuring at Cornelia Street Cafe for Poetically Incorrect again. The normal group from MiGente showed up and then some as the place was packed but the real surprise was my louderARTS fam coming through.

Lynne, Sabrina, Rog, Marty & GinnaKarla were all in the house and the smile inside me was ridiculously bright.

(Big shout to the UPHA and head-hatah, Alexa, as she came through as well! Criollo skies, indeed!)

My set at Cornelia was a wonderful and totally fulfilling experience as I have resloved some of my issues about being ‘the guy who does all his poems in Spanish’ and went full blast into a set that had 5 out of six poems with Spanish in them. Hell, one was entirely in Spanish!

Moving on to the next day and my audition. It was everything I imagined. Brief and anti-climatic.

I knew it wasn’t going to be the movies…

Oscar: ‘…Puedes que te sea dificil entender.’

Director: “Oh my God! Some one hand this boy a contract! How much money do you need?”

O: ‘Huh?’

D: “Money!!! How much do you need for the month?”

O: ‘Uhh, let’s say $2,000?’

D: “Quick! Write him a check for three!!! Now! We can’t let this talent escape!!!”

Nope, it went just like I thought it would…

Oscar: ‘…Puedes que te sea dificil entender.’

Director: “hhmm, yeah, thanks.”

So what do I have from the experience?

A 40 second pure Spanish poem that I have fully memorized, some Madison Ave experience and the assurance that when I need em, my friends are there.

Cross your fingers anyway, it couldn’t hurt.

The story so far…

08/01: As the Slam season ends with the Nationals in Seattle, I discover Bar13 and
the louderARTS Project. The performances of Roger Bonair-Agard, F Omar Telan, Bassey, Mayda DelValle, Kamal Simonette Dixon, Eric Guerrieri & others blow me away and inspire me to write a new poem that I debut on the mic two weeks later to a good reaction.

09/01: I continue writing new poems but fail to connect with the audiences as my work is raw and unpolished—as are my performances… On September 10th, I see three poets thrilled to move to New York… The next week the New York spoken word community gathers and expresses their feelings about 9/11. No poems from me as I just take the mic to express my concern for all New Yorkers.

10/01: With the woman who inspired it in the crowd, I debut the “Ceviche” poem and receive incredible feedback from the 13 crowd… Attend my first Open Mic at Barnes&Nobles in the Bronx and am dismayed at the amazing amount of bad poetry in regard to 9/11. I decide to change the vibe of the crowd with a comedic poem. It works and I learn about the real power of spoken word.

11/01: Try my hand at Slam and fail miserably… Continue Slamming/Continue losing… “Mercy on the Battlefield” is debuted on the 13 stage

12/01: Never advancing past the first round in any Slam I decide to retire from Slamming… George McKibbens invites me to Slam in a team he is putting together for competition… I unretire from Slam… The 3 Minute Prophets (George, Brother Earl, Evert Eden & myself) compete at Justin’s (P Diddy’s restaurant)… We lose and I am bummed out

01/02: After a month long hiatus, 13 returns and I debut more poems

02/02: Begin rehearsing “Mercy on the Battlefield” with Ray Medina who adds original music to my Salsa poem

03/02: Lynne Procope puts out a call to any poets interested in combining their poetry with music, dance or art… I respond and recommend Ray as musical director… synonymUS is formed and a new reading series is born… “Capicu” debuts and is chosen as ‘Poem of the Week’

04/02: louderARTS celebrates it’s 4th anniversary with Circus13, a wild party/poetry reading with an emphasis on comedy. My role– defending White Castle eating champion… This adds me to a line up that includes the founder of New York Slam and five National Slam champions

05/02: synonymUS debuts… “Mercy on the Battlefield” is performed with full music and Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani dancing in the background

06/02: I celebrate my birthday at 13, advance to the second round in a Slam(!) and get a bonus slot to read my third poem… After nine months at 13, I feel re-born

07/02: Roger Bonair-Agard asks me to open for his set as I get my first feature slot… Slamming at the SoundZ Bar, I meet Chance who invites me to perform at Cornelia Street

08/02: louder chooses me as one of their upperCASE features… A large crowd of friends & family sees me feature on an amazing evening… I attend the National Poetry Slam in Minneapolis as a spectator and accidentally become the ‘Sacrificial Poet’ for a San Francisco/Los Angeles/Boston/Chicago bout… louder is eliminated early from competition but that just allows all of the 13 crew to party harder and enjoy the company of poets from all across the country

09/02: Perform with Taylor Mali at an elderly residence in one of my best moments as a poet… Invited to join the louderARTS Project and become co-SlamMaster at Bar13… Feature at Poetically Incorrect at Cornelia Street Cafe

10/02: Feature at Morgie’s Café alongside Willie Perdomo… My best friend, for the first time ever, ponders on the possiblity of Oscar: Professional Poet.

11/02: On a whim I attend the Wednesday Open Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café and earn an invite to slam for their Friday night feature… Come in dead last but earn another invite as I get the support of the crowd

12/02: Return to the Nuyo for a second place finish on Felice Bell’s final night as host

01/03: the New Year starts with returning founder Guy LeCharles Gonzalez and louderARTS organizing a free night of all-star poetry to be recorded on CD.

Today: The CD recording is a success! A standing room only crowd sees the collective come together and deliver both a fabulous performance and flawlessly produced evening!