A review of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Nancy Mercado

A review of
The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon
by Nancy Mercado

Penguin Books, 2014

Willie Perdomo’s latest collection of poems, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, published by Penguin includes four sections that interplay voices and characters, the language of music, street jargon, Spanish and English and Spanglish.

As a Nuyorican poet who emerged on the scene in the 1990’s, Perdomo is comfortable in meshing a variety of elements that may have no business being together but come out clean and intelligible in the end. His book is a fusion of street culture, life in the halls of learning, dual languages, dual homes or no home that resulted in a multifaceted life.

In the first section of his book: How I Came to My Name, the book’s main character, Shorty Bon Bon describes himself to the reader in the first person. In adjacent poems another character (perhaps a spirit) describes Shorty to Perdomo in past tense. The language used includes musical terms in both English and Spanish much of which is slang. In juxtaposing the communication between the characters, between the reader and the poet, in Perdomo’s particular use of language and in his creation of instantaneous mixtures of images, the complex and fast world of Shorty Bon Bon is made vivid.

A musician by trade, Shorty is also a slick street hustler. His hustle has found a home in his musicianship. Shorty learned his craft by listening to the masters not by attending school. He is so sure of his greatness, he is arrogant:

So cool

     That I chased God like he was on the run.

 […]

So cool

     That when Puente heard my speed, I made him bite his

     Tongue. I’m saying—I made the Mambo King bleed.        (12)

Rather than being distasteful however, Shorty’s arrogance is amusing. Besides, his greatness is validated by the spirit who addresses Perdomo.

In the second section; To Be with You, gone is the “spirit” character who communicates with Perdomo and introduced is Rose; a singer who is Shorty’s girl. Here, Rose’s tumultuous relationship to Shorty takes precedence. Their separate accounts of their struggling liaison and of one another, sustains the play of communication established in the first section. Rose addresses Shorty through a series of letters while Shorty addresses Perdomo directly. The language Perdomo uses is again a sofrito of English, Spanish, Spanglish, street talk and proper terminology e.g., the use of the word pubis.

The greatness of Rose as a singer is a metaphor for her amazing intellect, beauty and female power. Rose is a formidable challenge to Shorty. So much so that regardless of Shorty’s coolness she leaves him in the end.

The third section of the book; Fracture, Flow, sees Perdomo melding into Shorty. The communication here is between the poet and reader; the voice in the poem is the poet’s and that voice is Shorty Bon Bon’s. Set in Puerto Rico, in this group of poems, Shorty recounts life on the island vs life on the mainland, the treatment of Puerto Rico by the United States and the island’s political state. Through the use of metaphor, Perdomo refers to such historical events as Columbus’ treatment by the natives when he lands on the island, the dignity of Puerto Rican nationalists, the Ponce massacre, how the island and mainland are treated with the same brutality by those in power, the selling of the illusion of freedom.

The final segment of the book; The Birth of Shorty Bon Bon  45, realizes the death and rebirth of Shorty Bon Bon. Just like the poet himself, Shorty has died and is reborn anew. His transformation played out on a metaphoric 45 vinyl sides A and B.

Telling the story of one character throughout a book of poems is a risky proposition; a tool usually reserved for novelists and short story writers. But the persistence of a character among the sewn shards of language and colliding metaphors throughout Perdomo’s book, unifies the work and gives pause to the reader to ponder; is Shorty Bon Bon really Willie Perdomo?

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is a must read for anyone seeking a poetically visceral experience of what it is to be an amalgamation of things which, in the end is truly American.

________________________________________________

Nancy Mercado is a writer, editor and activist whose work appears in dozens of anthologies and literary journals. Most recently, she presented her work at Casa de las Americas in Cuba. Mercado is an Assistant Editor for eco-poetry.org and an Associate Professor at Boricua College in New York City. She authored the collection of poetry titled: It Concerns the Madness. For more information go to: http://www.pw.org/content/nancy_mercado 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Mercado is a writer, editor and activist whose work appears in dozens of anthologies and literary journals. Most recently, she presented her work at Casa de las Americas in Cuba. Mercado is an Assistant Editor for eco-poetry.org and an Associate Professor at Boricua College in New York City. She authored the collection of poetry titled: It Concerns the Madness. For more information go to:pw.org/content/nancy_mercado.

Tribes announces….. Tribes 2.0- Live from Steve’s couch

We are announcing Tribes 2.0: Live from Steve’s Couch —as a way to keep the old Tribes spirit alive  — and keep a flow of new energy into the 6th St space. So Gander TV put in a camera and mic in 6th St for us.

The working dynamic here is that since Steve left 3rd St and the open door, every night a performance policy there, there has not been the kind of flow-through energy that sustained him and Tribes for a couple of decades. This is an attempt to find a way to find some new Tribes energy, to enter the digital world, and to have some fun with art.

You don’t need to do anything different than what you always do here at Tribes, shoot the shit, heckle and read to the blind guy. The only thing that will be different is it’ll be taped for people to watch live! (And there will be future events which we are in process of developing)

We will be setting up times and dates for people who want to participate. If you’re interested please send us an email at gatheringofthetribes@gmail.com

Our friend & contributor Fred Sievert’s God Revealed!

Buy his book here: http://www.amazon.com/God-Revealed-Revisit-Enrich-Future/dp/1614486999?tag=tribesorg-20

About Fred:

Every life is a unique journey, and each of us travels through life accumulating experiences and memories that ultimately impact how we behave in every moment.
Like you, how I will interact tomorrow with my spouse, children, siblings, coworkers, friends, and even adversaries is impacted and altered by my unique accumulation of life experiences.
It’s both an incredible gift and an enormous responsibility to realize that among my unique personal experiences, at least some contained revelations and messages from God.
I’ve shared my experiences on this website to persuade you that God does in fact speak to us through our life experiences.
As you read about my journey, I hope it will inspire you to be on the alert for future messages from God and to ponder your own past for messages you may have initially missed.
I came to know God through my own contemplations, self-study, prayer, and revelation. That process has provided me with the foundation for a very strong faith and meaningful testimony.
I recognize the value of early childhood training and education in a particular faith, with an emphasis on the Holy Bible. But that was not how I found God.
Unlike many lifelong Christians, those of us who found our own way may have missed rich religious training in childhood. We tend to know what we believe and why we believe it and can often provide cogent and effective arguments for our theological positions. But we do lack the foundation of years of biblical studies and a familiarity with God’s Word with all its beautiful and well-articulated values and lessons.
The stories I share on this website do not dwell extensively on my own theological beliefs. They are not intended to be a prescription for finding your own place in the family of believers. Continue reading

Review of Breaking Ground: Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980- 2012

Review of Breaking Ground: Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980- 2012 (Abriendo caminos: antología de escritoras puertorriqueñas en Nueva York 1980- 2012) for A Gathering of the Tribes

By Adriana Scopino

Like the figure of the woman facing a blue web in the painting la on the cover, Breaking Ground: Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980- 2012 (Abriendo caminos: Antología de escritoras puertorriqueñas en Nueva York 1980- 2012), the Puerto Rican woman poet in New York City is both her unique self and creative expression and part of the web of social, cultural and economic realities of the city in which she finds herself.  Recent anthologies of Puerto Rican writing and poetry such as Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings – An Anthology Paperback by Roberto Santiago, Puerto Rican Poetry: An Anthology from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times by Roberto Márquez, and two anthologies from the 1990s, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe by Miguel Algarín and Bob Holman and Puerto Rican Writers in the USA: An Anthology Paperback – May 1, 1991 edited by Faythe Turner, have included women writers or writers living in New York City, but none have set out to do what editor Myrna Nieves has done here. Each anthology is an artifact of a particular time and place. For Breaking Ground, Nieves assembled forty-six writers from twenty years of poetry readings at the Boricua College Winter Poetry Series to document a place and time in the evolution of Puerto Rican literature. Although the parameters of the anthology may seem narrow (the writings of Puerto Rican women poets and fiction writers who have lived in New York for at least ten years during the years 1980 to 2012), the results of the collection are panoramic: memoir, short fiction, spoken word, lyric, narrative poetry, erotica and use of both languages Spanish and English and powerful, unforgettable writing. Very well known writers such as Carmen Valle, Esmeralda Santiago (When I was Puerto Rican) and Sandra María Esteves, share these pages with writers not so well known to a wider American audience; well established writers next to up and coming writers. Continue reading

Steve Cannon’s poem in Live Mag! NYC

MAKE THE CUT

Listen to me
What it is
No goddamned excuses
Yawn, yawn, yawn
Ask for more
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Fuck that shit
I said, “No…”
Well, excuse me
Back and forth
Working out good
The blue shirt
Tell the truth
With open arms

http://livemagnyc.com/about.html

_________________________Steve Cannon

 

 

Response to senior’s murder recalls infamous case

Response to senior’s murder recalls infamous case

The Villager

BY GERARD FLYNN |   Although it has been 50 years since Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her Kew Gardens apartment, her brutal murder was evoked Monday evening at a vigil in the East Village, where another senseless act of violence recently took place.

Similar to the circumstances of Genovese’s death, Wen Hui Ruan — a retired garment factory worker, originally from China — was returning home alone at night Fri., May 9, when he was attacked on E. Sixth St. near Avenue D, just a block from his apartment.

A surveillance video shows his assailant approaching him from behind, then, in an extremely brutal attack, throwing the 68-year-old against a concrete wall, before viciously punching him once and stomping him three times on his head.

Ruan died the next day. Four days after the assault, on a tip, police arrested a local man, Jamie Pugh, 20, for the murder.

Provoking outrage among some in the community, however, the footage also shows passersby either witnessing the attack or its aftermath, but without offering assistance, as Ruan lies mortally injured.

Family members comforted Wen Hui Ran’s sobbing widow at the memorial. Photo by Gerard Flynn

Family members comforted Wen Hui Ran’s sobbing widow at the memorial. Photo by Gerard Flynn

Steve Cannon, the blind poet and longtime operator of A Gathering of the Tribes Gallery, was returning from dinner with friends and missed the attack by two minutes. He said he was appalled by what happened in the six minutes before police arrived.

After finally vacating his home / gallery in the former E. Third St. Tribes space due to an agreement with the landlord, Cannon recently moved to E. Sixth St. — right next to the spot of the murder. He sat at the vigil with Ruan’s family members, who sobbed uncontrollably, as well-wishers placed flowers before a makeshift shrine at the scene of the attack.

“By the time we got to the ramp he was coughing up blood,” Cannon recalled. He could barely contain his outrage as he recounted how a local woman, child in tow, screamed for assistance outside Cannon’s building, frantically ringing door bells, in vain. No one in his building came to her aid, or helped detectives in their follow-up investigation the next day.

“These mother f——- are so crazy they don’t know that s— can happen to them, too,” Cannon said.

Chinatown activist Karlin Chan also shared his indignation.

“This goes back to the Genovese murder,” he said. “This is a classic example. Maybe people didn’t want to get involved or were afraid, but at least you can go down the block and make an anonymous call to 911.”

Mourners were joined by local City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer.

Community board representatives were also present, as well as staff members for state Senators Daniel Squadron and Brad Hoylman.

Brewer, who lost a family member to violence, said she shared the councilmembers’ outrage over the shockingly violent assault.

Despite Chan’s claims that the attack’s ferocity suggests a racial motive, Mendez said she has no reason to believe that was, in fact, the case. It doesn’t necessarily mean area crime is increasing, either, she added.

“Violence happens and it happens here but it’s not happening on a daily basis,” she said.

Recalling how people saw the beating and walked on, Chin reminded everyone that such an attack “could happen to anyone.”

“Any violence in our community is our problem,” she stressed.