to Holy Bronx

Originally uploaded by Pro-Zak

I’m getting ready for my feature at Writers with Drinks tonight and I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous for a feature.

If you’ve been to a Writers with Drinks, then you know what I’m talking about. The energy is incredibly kinetic and the caliber of writers is always top notch so I’m feeling some serious pressure on what I should read. I can go with the set that I’ve been used to doing the last couple of readings or go with all new stuff. The way I’m talking about this, you’d think I was doing these same poems for five years or sumthin.

Segue: Watching the National Poetry Slam finals recently through live internet stream was a nice experience cuz even if I didn’t like the poems per se, I do appreciate the spirit of competition. What I didn’t appreciate was the asshattery in the chat room. Way too many internet jerks saying things you know they would never say in real life. But, one comment did crack me up, as a poet came up and did a poem they’ve been doing in competition for a long time, and one of the commentators types “This is their Stairway to Heaven!” And as someone who used to have his own Stairway to Heaven I cracked up. End segue.

Ok, time to really get ready and I do want to try to add at least one really new poem to the mix because I don’t ever want to be that poet that does all the same things at all the same places. Been there, when I was younger, and done with it. I know all the reasons poets do the “hits” all the time but I really don’t care if there is “at least one person” in the room who has never heard that poem before. You know, that poem guaranteed to change lives. What I most care about is that the only way I can write that poem—the one that if I’m extremely lucky might get remembered 100 years from now—is by writing new stuff.

Speaking of new stuff. Here’s the latest revision of a poem I started at Martín Espada’s CantoMundo workshop. There’s at least three good stories behind this poem but that’ll have to wait for latah. See ya at the Make Out Room!

The Neighborhood and Tenant Association of Tremont Avenue, The Bronx, Gather to Erect a Statue for Robert Moses

[Poem was here. Can now be found at CrossBronx.]

Re:Verse Literary Conference & Festival 2008

Conference Date: Saturday, October 25, 2008
Location: Hostos Community College
450 Grand Concourse at 149th St., Bronx, NY

The Re:Verse Literary Conference revitalizes the importance of books in the lives of young people.

The conference presents creative ways for keeping literature and books valuable sources of knowledge and creativity. This series of professional-development workshops will help educators incorporate literature into existing curricula to further explore course work that focuses on cultures, history, and social studies.

The mission is to bring a love of literature back into the classroom in new, unique, and exciting ways.

Regular registration: $15, October 1 through October 25
All conference attendees will receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Mosaic Literary Magazine ($24 value) and lunch.

Session I: 12:00n-1:15pm
Conscious Women Rock the Page: Using Hip Hop Fiction to Incite Social Change
Conscious Women Rock the Page to support educators who wish to use hip-hop fiction in their classrooms to explore social issues and promote activism among their students.
• Instructors: Jennifer Calderon, Elisha Miranda, Sofia Quintero, and Marcella Runell Hall

Puerto Rican and Dominican Poetry in the Classroom
This workshop will explore the work of poets from the rich cultural communities Puerto Rican and Dominican and ways to use their work in the classroom.
• Instructor: Rich Villar

Session II: 1:30-2:45pm
Revisiting the Role of Literature & Culture in the Classroom through Art & the Written Word
Revisiting the Role of Literature will explore the fusion of culture, literature, and visual arts in new ways; global community building through literature; and the role played by literature, art and the new media in the creation of a heritage and cultural identity
• Instructors: Gabrielle David and Nikita Hunter

The Bridge is Over: Connecting Young Adults with Engaging, Age-Appropriate Literature
The Bridge is Over will provide educators and youth providers with strategies to identify and work with engaging multicultural young adult literature.
• Instructor: Felicia Pride/BackList

Lunch: 2:45-3:30pm

Session III: 3:45-5:00pm
Learning About Ourselves and Each Other: How Reading Diverse Text Promotes Tolerance and Boundary-Stretching
This workshop will engage participants in discussion and activity that identifies ways to engage urban youth in literary pursuits that include reading about and discussing literary texts by authors who are culturally different or write about characters who are different culturally in any way ranging from ethnicity and religion to nationality and gender.
• Instructor: Khadijah Ali-Coleman

Poems as Speech Acts and Accommodating Forms
Workshop participants will read aloud and analyze three to four contemporary poems by different poets and discuss how our attitudes, beliefs, and our understanding of diction, tone, and context influence us to arrive at the poet’s intended meaning.
• Instructor: Charles H. Lynch

Re:Verse is presented by The Literary Freedom Project, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt not-for-profit arts organization that supports the literary arts through education, creative thinking, and new media. Additional support was provided by the Bronx Council on the Arts, Backlist, and Hostos Community College.

Please visit Literary Freedom Project or Mosaic Literary Magazine for more information.

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today

At (Ole) Yankee Stadium
Originally uploaded
by geminipoet
Oh man, today is the last game at the Stadium.

I can’t say I’m sad about the move, since the Yanks are only moving across the street and stayin in the Bx. (King) George was always threatening to move em to Jersey and, for a second, it looked like that might be the way it would go and having the Bronx Bombers become the New Brunswick Bombers woulda been whack in every kinda way.

My last few visits back to NYC always had me going around the Stadium(s) and seeing how the legacy will continue. Everything I saw says that this new home of Yankee Pride will be all that, the bag of chips, and a dirty water dog. My only real complaint is the loss of Macombs Dam Park. Urban (over)development is the way, business, and reality of New York but the loss of this park is a real tragedy to the neighborhood and the plans to replace it–acre for acre, tree for tree, field for field–have been convoluted and rife with delays.

Still, I have my memories and they are all good (even when my best friend and I paid $200+ each for field level box seats to see the Yanks get SPANKED by the Braves in Game 1 of the 96 Series) and the next time I am in the Boogie Down, you best believe I will be up in the (New) Stadium making more memories.

[ETA 9-22-08] Yanks win 7-3 over the Orioles.

More on the Last Day of the House Ruth Built:
Mike Lupica’s Daily News Column
The Sporting News
Live coverage at the Official Yankees website

X-Post: McCartney’s ex donating $1M in vegan food to the Bronx

Hunt’s Point art
Originally uploaded by NotTheDuck

Make no mistake, Hunts Point is one of the roughest parts of the Bx. Its main function is the home of the Hunts Point Market, the world’s largest food distribution center, providing fresh meat, fish, and produce to the New York Tri-State Area’s various food industries.

The irony is that most of that fresh produce doesn’t make it to the local hood which thrives and suffers from the Market which provides many low paying jobs to the residents but little else to the Point.

I hope that Heather Mills’ donation of $1M in soy food is not just another Anglo Santa one-time charity stunt and actually turns into a rallying cry from the residents of the Point for more quality food products from the local bodega.

Up in the Bronx where the people are fresh

Featherbed LaneWhen I found out I was heading to New York for my best friend’s wedding, I figured it would be a good chance to test out the Palimpsest poems in their spiritual home of New York City. Only problem is that a lot of reading series do that summer hiatus thing which is cool for them but might inconvenient for an Oakland poet who is trying to spread the word.

For a minute I felt that I had lost all my NYC mojo, there was a time when I was doing a feature at least once a month. I wasn’t getting paid much, if anything, but I was getting the chance to test out new work with different audiences in all kinds of settings and that was my main motivator to write, edit, and revise before I had goals like journal publication, chapbook contests and first book prizes on my mind. Anyways, I checked out the local poetry calendars to see if there were any cool events happening but it felt like I was missing everything by a day or two. At the end of the feature hunt all I had 100% lined up was a sit-down with Rich for an Acentos Live! podcast, a great chance to talk about poetics and maybe even drop a poem or two, but not that chance to read in front of a live audience which is what I was really looking for. (We did get to do the podcast recording and it went really well. Can’t wait for Rich to post it!)

So what up with this need for an audience? Well, I think just about every poem I have ever written, I have recited. For me, there is no difference between the writing process and the act of reciting. It’s always been one and the same for me. I was sharing this with my moms and pops and they knew exactly what I was talking about, as they jumped right away into stories of learning poems in grade school back in Ecuador and how the spoken word was their first intro to poetry. (BTW, when I say spoken word, I actually mean the act of speaking words and not some exotic catch-phrase.)

The Merch TableNow, just when I thought that I wasn’t going to get this chance, Latasha Diggs alerts her e-list about a poetry jam going down in the Bronx and I figure that it couldn’t hurt to ask if they had room for one more poet. Well, not only was this a good feature opportunity but it turned into a mini-family reunion as my moms, pops, baby niece, and a couple of cousins came down to hear the set. Include some Acentos folks—Rich, Maria, Bonafide, and Annecy, two incredibles co-features Latasha and Edwin Torres, and the hosting styleez of Urayoán Noel into the mix and you have one of the most emotional features I have ever had.

sudaca/bronx/jam Set-List

• A Bodega on Anywhere Avenue
• Palimpsest: Ghazal
• Congruence
• My Father’s Accent
• Palimpsest: Antipoema
• Fire Escape
• The Break
• Psalm for Public Housing
• B-Boy Prayer

This is almost the same set I did at the Eastlake Sessions with a slightly different order and with a longer version of Fire Escape. This longer version almost did me in as I ran out of breath half-way through and also got ultra self-conscious when I started hearing folks in the next room talking up a storm, which was cool on their part since the room was setup so that folks could be listening to the poems or hanging and chatting in the other room but it just pushed me from Latasha Nevada Diggs at the sudaca/bronx/jamnervous/excited right into excited/panicked and that turned into my voice trying to do things it doesn’t have the range to do. Another thing I wasn’t ready for was that the Fire Escape poem got me genuinely emotional, emotional as in pissed off (an emotion that doesn’t happen in many of my poems—genuinely sad and genuinely joyful happens a lot though).

I was able to recover my breath and finished out the set pretty strong (thanks to shorter more reflective pieces at the end) and was on quite the high after the set.

Latasha rocked it out next with a four-language villanelle in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and a Hawaiian dialect that was the madness. She also rocked out the loop station to add some beats on gamab click the bedouin remix, then closed out with a piece that requires beats she didn’t have on hand so she just had the crowd act as the loop station. Good fun.

Edwin Torres at the sudaca/bronx/jamEdwin Torres came through with his signature style of disrupted languages and stitched syntax that pushes the ear in all kinds of direction. The focus was on the Bronx and flipping the imaginary line that separates North from South and twisting it past linear to turn it into a parabola based on the X-point of experience and the Y-point of story. Word.

Keeping it live all the way was MC Uráyoan Noel who started out the jam with a poem of his own exploring what is Sudaca Bronx (or la sur caca or el ca’bronx) and then also dropped poetic PSA’s for El Obama between poets, keepiUráyoan Noelng the energy high but not too serious at the same time. Did I mention the poetry set ended with Ura’s singing “My Homie El Obama” sung to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama” with lyrics that went something like

My Homie El Obama
Turing red states into blue
My Homie El Obama
Setting my homepage to you

I might be a little off on the lyrics but it was all good fun especially with Latasha, Edwin, and me on back-up vocals doing a little shuffle and fist pump for good measure.

I also picked up a copy of Ura’s new book Boringken and Edwin’s The Popedology of an Ambient Language.

Many thanks to Libertad Guerrera and the whole Spanic Attack crew for letting me share my poetry with the Boogie Down, my friends, and my family.