E-Interview: Rich Villar coming back home to the Nuyorican

The biggest question I get to this day is: “Do you miss New York?”

My answer is always the same: “I miss my family, my friends, good pizza and real bagels, but I don’t really miss NYC so much.”

But every once in a while, I wish I was back in the old hood, specifically the Loisaida, for things like peeping Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child at the Angelika, eating a Reuben at Katz’s Deli and catchin’ my homie Rich Villar for his Friday Spotlight feature at the Nuyorican.

To celebrate his feature, I asked Rich a few questions about his past involvement with the Nuyo, what’s going down now and how he plans to negotiate it all. Full interview can be found at the Letras Latinas blog.

Plus, a bonus question post-Nuyo feature:

Oscar: So, how’d it go last night?

Rich: I am beginning to think that “home” is truly what you make of it. I think for many years I expected the Nuyorican to be this place where “the elders” or “the community” accepted me as one of their own, and when I didn’t get that coming in the door, I was disappointed. I realize now that I’M the community. Or rather, the people I surround myself with, no matter the venue, make the place “home.” Of course this is true. It works that way with family. Why wouldn’t it work that way in the arts world? I was surrounded by people I love, who love the word, even if they’re at different places with it than I am. And we made the Nuyorican ours tonight. It was quite something. That, and Julio seems to like me. Of course, next week…maybe not so much!

Our mutual friend and partner in crime Juan Diaz recorded the whole feature, so there should be clips up before too long. I felt really comfortable with the audience, my voice, and my critical voice…I made a statement about spoken word being a lie perpetrated on poets, and I actually believed it, and so did the audience. :-)

Around the Way: Martín Espada

• Rich Villar recounts Martín Espada’s visit to the Acentos Writers Workshop over at Letras Latina.

On the walls hung 112 photos of headstones from St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. Martín’s workshop revolved around Edgar Lee Masters’ SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, a book of persona poems in the voices of the dead. Masters took the names from the headstones of Spoon River Cemetery. The Acentos workshop was about to do the same for St. Raymond’s.

Espada started with a half-hour lecture on the life of Edgar Lee Masters, along with a reading of poems from the book itself. Some of the poems were in conversation with other poems. Most of them were highly speculative about the dead person’s occupation, demeanor, relations, and relationships to the other dead people. So, taking from these cues, and keeping in mind things like birth dates and death dates, names, proximity to other headstones, and a large dose of speculation, 78 workshoppers (Attrition! Where is thy blush?) were sent wandering around the room in search of personae to write about, and through.

Complete report here.

• Espada is also quoted over at The Nation regarding baseball, steroids and how the players are held to blame for the greed of the owners and the demands of the fans.

As baseball fan and poet Martin Espada told me, “Baseball is the Main Street of sports. (Think Cooperstown.) It’s full of history and nostalgia, and paved with the bricks of hypocrisy. Now it’s the rhetoric of the ‘drug war,’ handed down from the Nixon White House forty years ago to MLB and ESPN today.”

He is absolutely correct. We are supposed to tsk-tsk at players who are supposed to “just say no” to their addictions to fitness and monster stats, when their success at the park is our addiction as well. We also have yet to truly take owners to task for their addictions to public money and send them to detox.

Complete article here.

• Jean Feraca interviews Espada at Here On Earth: Radio Without Borders. (RealPlayer required)

Espada: “What I consider despicable is silence.”