"Poetry at this moment, the last decade of the century, is a growing, developing, challenging force. We have, at the end of the millennium, brought it to life and televised it to the masses. The driving force has been to rekindle the word and the meaning of words. The effort has been to diversify, to turn over mass advertising's dissipation and abuse of language, and to rescue language from the deadening political "isms" that have enveloped it."
Miguel Algarin 'The Sidewalk of High Art' from 'Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.'
In 1973 a Peurto Rican Poet named Miguel Algarin gathered what he called the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the living room of his apartment on E. 6th Street. The term Nuyorican meant a New York Peurto Rican and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe was a gathering of this group to discuss their place in the poetry world and to share new poems. They were trying to figure out how to be heard and how to give the Nuyorican population a voice that could ring out above the noise of the city. Miguel was suprised at how quickly his apartment filled up and how little space he now found within the confines of his living area. So Miguel, with a little help from his Nuyorican Poet supporters, in the 1980's, rented the space on 236nd E. 3rd Street in Alphabet City Manhatten. They rented the space for awhile until the group had saved up enough money to buy the building and started "The Nuyorican Poets Cafe" a non-profit threatre space for the performances of shows, poetry slams, and the awareness of the Nuyorican presence in the world of New York poetry. "The new poetry, or rather the poetry of the nineties, seeks to promote a tolerance and understanding between people. The aim is to dissolve the social, cultural, and political boundaries that generalize the human experience and make it meaningless...It is clear that we now are entering a new era, where the dialogue is multi-ethnic and necessitates a larger field of verbal action to explain the cultural and political reality of North America." Miguel Algarin 'The Sidewalk of High Art' from 'Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.'
Up All Night
I reached over our pile of blankets and pillows and grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels. We had started the bottle at dusk and now had found ourselves deep into the early morning of the next day. My companion on this journey was Erika. She had just moved into my apartment and we had curled up in blankets on the living room floor with a bottle of booze and the book "Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe" to read the poems aloud to each other all night. "I think Nuyorican means New York Peurto Rican" I said after my swig. "I think that Nuyorican is a play on what a resident of the city should be named." She commented. "No, it say's it right here, Nuyorican is a New York Peurto Rican." "I am standing my ground no matter what the book says." Both Erika and I had performed in poetry readings around town and fell in love with the poems written by Nuyorican Poets and collected by Miguel Algarin and Bob Holman in the 1990's. We both dreamed of poems and reading our poetry and becoming a part of a greater poetic community. Our marriage and the birth of our three children put a small damper on our dreams but today we are going strong. We have started our collections again and plan on taking part in local poetry readings offered downtown Reno Nevada. This time we will bring our children and show them the joy of a well read poem. On a much smaller scale, we have a desire, much like Miguel Algarin, to take our poetry to the community anyway we can.
Take Them In and Send Them Out
Allen Ginsberg called the "Nuyorican Poets Cafe" the "most integrated place on the planet." The stage is open to all races and creeds, the only requirement to read your poetry in a slam or try to get your play on stage is the drive and a certain amount of bravery. The Cafe has held hundreds of events celebrating the arts and performed many local plays written by local playwrights that tackle topics from poverty to racial inequality to women's rights. There is a dedicated "Slam" room that is open to whomever walks in to read. The only difficulty with reading at the cafe is that the "Slam Room" hours start around midnight and go until the morning. Many well known poets, including Ginsberg, have not only read at the Cafe's "Slam Events" but have been sighted in the crowd listening to where poetry has gone and is heading. To see listings of old or upcoming performances one can stop by their website. "The poets of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe take responsibility for breaking all boundaries that limit and diminish the impact of their work. It is at the heart of the matter to move their work from the Cafe into other communities of the city in order to break racial patterns that tend to isolate these communities into ethnic pockets that are enclosed and without intercommunication...Thus the artist becomes the catalyst through which social change is made." Miguel Algarin 'The Sidewalk of High Art' from 'Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.'
To Whomever is Listening
The group teaches and throw's Slams at schools and local community centers and preaches the words of poetry to anyone who listens.
I finally have found the bravery to step forward and be a part of a greater community of poets with an inspiration from the Nuyorican Poets. Granted I am only operating in the small community of Reno Nevada but one day, maybe if I try hard enough, I can be heard in a greater geographical area.
What is my message? Similar to the Nuyorican Poets, I believe in the importance of Heritage, Family, Community, and Love.
"The poets of the Cafe are saying, "Listen, and be aware of the energy and power of words. Do not abandon the self, retain the culture, return to thinking, stop the passive role of the observer, and take up the sport of life." Miguel Algarin 'The Sidewalk of High Art' from "Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.