Now, that I'm on the East coast, it's such an amazing experience to see the range of writers like Willie Perdomo, Magdalena Gomez, Tato Laviera, Sandra Maria Esteves, Jesus Papoleto, among others. The Acentos series in the Bronx also gave me the chance to see a lot of these poets up close and to hear more of the type of work that I had only read.
What would you describe as your major themes?
History, family, politics, and love (mostly because we need to remember why we struggle in the first place).
You've had a lot of interface with spoken word, slam poetry, etc. How would you describe those genres v. 'literary' poetics and form?
Spoken word is an untapped wellspring of possibilities. Unfortunately, since people are catering to the lowest common denominator and writing pieces that will garner a shock, laughter, or a tour through the spoken word circuit, there is not the same kind of interest in the work that I had before. Now, do I think that the slam offers young writers a chance to build their confidence and articulate themselves clearly in front of an audience? Yes. Do I think that it can lead people to read their work with feeling and internalize the meaning of what they've written? Yes. Do I think it can lead to people producing one-person shows, records, verse plays, books, creative collaborations and radical, through-provoking performance? Yes. And lastly, are there too many people competing for little-to-no-paying gigs for the big payoff of three to five minutes on television? Yes.
What most people don't realize is that performance becomes a job. Even if you love it, you must maintain what will keep you working, and there are contradictions that compel people to ask hard questions about the growth and integrity of their work. Not enough people are asking themselves about that. I also think that if spoken word is continually pigeonholed as slam poetry and watered-down hip hop by wannabe emcees, then it will be relegated to the ghettos of forgotten poetry. There are too many good poets of color coming out of such performative experiences to be limited by this kind of categorization. Spoken word is a category promoted by NARAS. Oral traditions across centuries and cultures have always existed, so we have to remind people that internalizing what we write and sharing it orally is not new. So, I don't necessarily think there is a difference in the text, unless you're a lazy writer who overcompensates through performance. Anything written can be performed, published, or exhibited. It's just about how it's done.