From the editors: When you look at Rich Villar’s writing, his command of language is striking. Not just in the sense of writing well – although that, also – but in the sense that he understands the nuances of tone and diction like few others. In interspersed English and Spanish, Villar captures the emotional resonance of language, the political and class ramifications of word choice, and a thousand splintery details besides. This sense of reality, with all of its messiness and subtle negotiations, is at the core of what makes Villar such a vital and compelling writer.

Latino Studies
By Rich Villar

sacred cristobal colon island outposts,
empires relocated stone by stone to the sea,
misnomer maps cracking new smiles to new nations
border lines looped around the neck of ownerless dust
moving melancholies of iron bellies purifying temples
economies of raw wrists, sifting tongues
names rattled in cheeks, spit for building clay
gothic architectures pushed through infertile soil
honed edges glided through soft slave throats,
tupac amaru’s tongues torn, language betrayed
patois spanish creole mixto yoruba yenyere bruca manigua
machetes burned claiming old blood and new blood
mestizaje risen in the voice of el zambo manuel
silver memories quickened the feet of bronze titans
doctrines and catholic teachings
title passed from South to North, set down in constitutions
negritude, mambises, bolivar guevara dictadura,
allende and neruda buried in the same grave,
debt piles and
roosevelt corollaries.


SUBJECT:  RE:  Latino Studies Conference

Yes!  This is all exciting!  Great stuff.  Let me run this past the head of the department and see if I should apply for travel stipends.  I’m going to email you the Call For Proposals today or tomorrow.   If you have any support materials, please, if you would, when you have a chance, the deadline is tomorrow, attach me their hot urban spoken word, attach reclaimed epithets, attach black and gold Yankees caps, attach  Pun’s wife pistolwhipped on camera, attach the recipe for your mother’s pasteles, attach a pregnant 15 year old Dominican, attach a copy of the Young Lords documentary, attach a copy of Samuel Huntington’s essay on Latino assimilation.  If you need help with the language, send me an email and you can copy what I did last year.  Don’t worry so much about including uplift or machetes in your proposal.  I’m sure someone in the audience will provide that.  Maybe we can even open up the floor to questions.


From Villar: I remember meeting Willie Perdomo at the Bronx Museum in late 2003 or so, when I was just a baby poet.  I said something utterly fanboy to him, and I remember muttering something about not wanting to write for the slam, or not wanting to write a lot of easy spoken word stuff.  Because I wanted to sound smart in front of someone I respect.  I realize now that I’ve been having some form of this conversation with him, and myself, ever since.

The nice thing about having mentors like Willie is that when he gets to talking with you, he’ll immediately squash your fanboy language and place himself in the context of colleague—he’ll tell you, without telling you, there’s no need to fawn or feel intimidated, because I’m a poet just like you, and you have important things to talk about, things to say about poetry, the culture, and so forth. It’s funny, you read about how poets were in conversation with each other, one perhaps looking up to the other, and the relationship seems almost matter-of-fact to them, something obvious.  I count it as a blessing, a rare one, even.

What I admire about Willie, what I can relate to, is his desire not to be pinned into one particular style or subject matter, to keep moving forward the way Miles Davis did.  The poem Have It Your Way is a mosaic of sorts, a groundbreaking interrogation of the diasporic Puerto Rican experience.  It asks necessary questions about authenticity, post-colonial politics, and how poets are permitted to capture these contradictions using language.  It is also turns out to be somewhat prophetic, because the student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico are turning these questions over in our heads yet again.

Have It Your Way first appeared in So Much Things To Say:  100 Poets from the First Ten Years of the Calabash International Literary Festival, edited by Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer.

Have  It  Your  Way
By Willie  Perdomo

You  should  start  talking  about  the  half-Puerto  Rican  girl
in  your  workshop  who  used  a  palm  tree  in  her  symbol  exercise.
,  she  says. That’s  what  it  means.
You  tell  her  that  on  the  way  to  workshop
your  taxi  caught  a  red  light  at  the  intersection
of  Fernández  Junco  y  Avenida  Kennedy  in  Santurce
&  you  saw  Anacaona  sitting  under  a  palm  tree,
picking  shingles  off  her  arms.  You  saw  her
do  a  sloppy  open  back  to  outside  turn  toward  your  car
&  break  into  a  salsa  rendition  of  Jingle  Bells.
She  pushed  her  beat-up,  super  size  Burger  King  cup
against  the  driver’s  window,  asked  for  some  epidemic  chip-ins,
because  her  habit  just  got  bigger  by  one  trimester.
Freddy  the  Touristica  driver  said  that  you
don’t  see  what  you  just  saw  in  the  tourist  guides,
so  fijate.

Real  will  recognize  real  once  they  see
that  your  R’s  were  traded  for  L’s
&  your  S’s  got  clipped  somewhere
across  the  Atlantic.
Don’t  go  to  the  beach  in  the  winter—
you  won’t  find  real  Puerto  Ricans  &
at  least  three  construction  workers
from  DR  will  opine  that  if  PR
goes  free  the  sand  will  go  quick  &
you  just  ain’t  ready  for  that  kind  of  noise.

On  the  way  to  pick  up  his  financial  aid  package,
Carlito  received  a  voicemail  from  his  Tio  Pedro.
It  said  that  Mami  Juanita  just  walked  into  a  precinct,
strapped  head-­to-­toe  with  dynamite  sticks,
demanding  that  the  San  Juan  Ritz-Carlton  Casino
give  back  all  her  Social  Security  checks.

First  Tuesday  of  every  month
dale  pa  Viejo  San  Juan,  Noches  de  Galería.
Beware  of  bleached  trigueñas,  dudes
who  thread  their  eyebrows  &  Pro-Statehood  politicos
who  use  bomba  y  plena  groups  to  fundraise.
Tap  a  cobblestone  for  good  luck  and  with
the  best  of  luck  you’ll  end  up  at  Café  Seda,
on  your  tenth  can  of  Medalla,  DJ  Velcro
spinning  the  summer  jam  out  of  you.
You  might  even  try  to  get  symbolic  with  it
&  puff  a  blunt  by  El  Morro,  putting  yourself
in  the  persona  of  the  first  dude  who  saw  Columbus
&  told  him  to  take  off  the  brim,  lose  the  doublet,
get  rid  of  the  girdle,  it’s  hot,  yo  &  you  being
the  Paseo  Boricua  that  you  are,
the  dirt-­eating  Ponceña  that  you  are,
the  Filiberto  Ojeda  Ríos  that  you  are,
the  che-­che cole  that  you  are,  the  thirty
seconds  it  takes  to  steal  a  car  that  you  are,
the  olive  skin  Buddhist  pop  star  that  you  are,
will  pass  Columbus  the  blunt  &  tell  him  to
take  a  hit  before  the  government  is  forced
to  shut  down  for  a  day.

Now  remember—your  conjugation  game
needs  to  be  tight.    It’s  true—Puerto  Ricans
love  for  free.  But  in  the  immortal  words
of  my  compay  John,  “What  the  fuck  is  a  vosotros?”
After  the  first  ¡hola!  you  will  be  from  out  there,
de  afuera,  no  matter  your  authentic  Taíno  DNA  pattern,
no  matter  how  many  boleros  abuelo  sang  when  you  were  born,
no  matter  how  many  flags  are  hanging  out  your  window.
You  don’t  hear  as  many  coquís  these  days  so  when
the  mic  opens  remember  how  Don  Pedro  blasted
the  interrogator  with  that  me  cago  en  la  madre
que  te  pario,  cabrōn  but  you  have  to  make  sure
that  you  do  it  all  in  lengua  madre  because  there  will  be
that  one  dude  dressed  in  full  black  regalia  who  will
crash  your  class,  set  fire  to  a  stolen  PNP  poster  &
without  saying  whaddup,  what’s  going  on  brother,
he  will  ask  you,  the  Visiting  Nuyorican  Poet,
if  you  know  Spanish.


From Villar: In December 2008, Raina Leon, my co-editor, sent along that month’s submissions for The Acentos Review for perusal and proofreading.  Sean Dalpiaz’s poem Volvió A Nacer hit me, not like a ton of bricks, but a punch to the gut.  His sparse lines are evocative of William Carlos Williams (a Boricua writer, point of order!) as well as Pedro Pietri, in that every line hits, and every line builds.  Emjambment is your friend, people!

In a poem published in Boog City 48, A Round Walk, Dalpiaz’ takes on Pablo Neruda’s image-rich Walking Around by resetting it inside a prison.  Here’s a line I wish I’d written:  “One man’s steam is the next man’s melted dream.”  Considering how many of Neruda’s colleagues ended up in prison themselves, I’d like to think Neruda would have appreciated the new perspective.

I’d like to see Sean write some stupid-long poems, book length maybe, just to hear where that voice goes, and what it builds to.  What it builds.

A Round Walk
By Sean M. Dalpiaz

Rounded steel ordering footsteps that grant a thought
                                          to a guard’s lips;
lip service cracks the concrete, the state workers
plow their machines through to fill the cracks
                              with hot tar;
the masked never walk on hot tar,
one man’s steam is the next man’s melted dream;
these are the days spent hoping
the back door will be open;
a straight-faced silent obsession and compulsion sets in as
the texture of fake wood railings  ooze their oils
onto frightened palms,
                                          locks turn,
            and the shuffling from both sides begins:
“the other prisoners”: a duty or chance to release someone
                                          else’s beliefs,
the prisoners: an ease, a breathing backwards stance of courage,
                                                                                                      of life;
a scattered, rushed breech of confidence stolen
from some false idol’s sermon.
I scatter the images and check if my heart is still
                                                                                    In place.
Not dance.
All faces are blurred and stretched:
                              I smile at its temporary nature.