Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXIX - Issue 3 - News
Spoken Word Poetry Reading
by Harrison Osaki
On Thursday, November 7th, two Nuyorican artists gave Spoken Word performances under the mantle of the Spoken Word Collective on Stanford campus. Mark Otuteye of the Spoken Word Collective sent out a flier describing the artists, a man by the name of Willie Perdomo and a woman known as Mariposa, as "bada** spoken word poets."
The performance took place in Cubberley Auditorium, nominally at the time of 5:30. Before the performance, the officials in charge of the show asked the roughly 45 people in the audience to move in closer, so that they could "collect our energy".
The performance itself did not begin until 5:49, at which time the program organizers thanked the audience for coming and introduced the first poet, Willie Perdomo. After preparing his papers and books, Willie uttered his first line of the night: "What's up?" He followed this with, "Um...f*** that sh**, thank you." His first poem that he read was called "Portrait of a Harlem Buddhist", which was written in the form of a letter to a dead boy named "Petey" (a nickname for Pedro) and recounted how he died in the slums of Harlem. After his death the narrator and Pedro's friends and family spit on the spot where Pedro died, in protest of the type of crowd which he hung around. Pedro had many ideas about improving his life, such as working with computers, which the narrator did not share; after Pedro's death at the hands of thugs, the narrator commented that he was loathe to spit on the spot where Pedro died for fear that he "might die on the ground [the narrator] had spit on." The next poem that Willie read was "Poet in Harlem", which began by describing how "a poet must look at the whole picture", providing the catalyst for a story about "two levels of love" that a poet found while searching in Harlem: a pair of teenagers in a park, and "two fallen angels with scratched throats". He finished with the line, "Show me a woman who is strung out on love--I need to feed a habit."
Mr. Perdomo's third poem focused on the value of names, such as American "concentration camps named after dead presidents, abolitionists...and peanut farmers whose names mean nothing." He praised "names that make you want to live in [a place]", and immigrants who "ran down a street, singing...", and disparaged the "one way tickets to a sold-out dream." He finished his monologue with the line, "In order to understand this, listen to Pancho, singing the last song he heard before he left", Pancho being a Mexican immigrant who refused to learn English.
Mr. Perdomo's next poems concerned, among others, a mother who "even though she don't have a job, [she] still works hard" despite being kicked in the stomach by her husband and miscarriaging, a poem entitled "Sh** to Write About", which concerned life on the street; a poem about a barbeque; a poem about "The Night we Rode to Brixton"; and a poem about two Christian boys, who were "talking about God in Spanish hip-hop", and that we should "tell Rosalida that people are handing out passports since the spaceship is about to leave."All of these poems were written in free verse and without apparent meter.
The second artist, Mariposa, began with a dedication: "to you, who are struggling against racism and class discrimination..." She then commented that the American navy had apparently received orders to remove themselves from a certain foreign port near Puerto Rico, with the follow-up comment, "Bush-sh**." She then launched into her first performance piece, a rendition of "God Bless America" with commentary between each line. She prefaced her song with the observation that "After 9-11 we were bombarded by a theme," of patriotism, and after hearing the song at a baseball game she decided to rewrite the song. The commentary included such lines as, "God bless America - Ay, please por favor bless America", "Land that I love - Though she's ruled by war-mongering men", "My home, sweet home - because of the Atlantic slave trade and U.S. imperialism", and "...to the prairies - caked with dry blood of Native Americans." All of these lines were met with much laughter from the roughly forty people there.
Her second piece was entitled "I Feel Sexy", and she began with, "Throw me a crooked smile and peek at me through slanted eyes, call me "Boo" / That see me as woman, any woman...object, any object." The poem was written in response to being called "Boo" as a catcall from a man on the streets of New York. The poem criticized those men who were, "degradin' [her] identity, rapin' her name...like the slave masters stripped us of names...like you name me, ‘cocktease'."
The Nuyorican Poets Café is, from its website, a "living room hosting the freshest art to come through the ports of New York City". Its members span various ethnicities, including "Puerto Rican, Dominican, African-American, Ukrainian, Polish and Irish", and aims to "furnish the information and the vision to empower the underclass to join the mainstream and reinvigorate the American temper."
Page last modified on Wednesday, 01-Mar-2006 23:50:31 MST.