Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oh, you didn't know(?): This Week and Weekend in Poetry/Poesía in NYC.

My peoples, my peoples, my peoples.

It's been made perfectly clear to me that the kind of note I'm about to write is opportunism and buffoonery of the highest order. Shameless self-promotion at best.

Well. If you know me at all, you know the answer I'd give to that involves kraken release and cardboard signs that say "C'MON SON" in Spanish. (Yes, I actually have one.)

When was the last time you got to revel in loving poetry? When was the last time you truly believed in the physical empowerment of listening to poetry read out loud, in a group of your favorite fellow listeners, some of whom are poets themselves? I can already hear you snorting, curling your furtive eyebrow skyward, raising a critical eye toward yet another live poetry reading, the kind that is above you now that you are a serious poet.

I missed the Acentos readings. I love the workshops, but...I really MISSED the Acentos readings. I love what I do nothing more than when I am in a roomful of poetas, wannabes, and eager listeners, listening and writing and giving my silent amens in response to the blooming in my ear canal. And this is what happened/happens when Acentos takes over a space.

We are Latino poets and Latina poets with a home in the Bronx. We love live poetry and we love it from all corners. Back when I had one poem in my life, and now that I'm thinking of a book, Acentos has always been home. In its life, Acentos has been two dudes; three dudes; three dudes and a woman; three dudes and several women; two dudes and 25 writers a week; 33 men and women in a college auditorium with 200 more listening; and a core troop of volunteers at a community college. At its core, we've always operated in honor of the Latino/a voice in American letters, always in a space that needed neither apology nor translation.

This weekend, our mission is in full effect.

So, we tried to put on a full-fledged festival with 14 workshops, panel discussions, and a blowout reading. That didn't exactly happen, but...we are going to get the reading part right. And well, we get to do it for three straight days. So actually, maybe it IS a festival of sorts. :-)

What's going on, Rich? Gawd, you are one long-winded bastard.

Yes I am. But with good reason. Let me clue you in to what's happening this week and weekend in New York.

At the Bowery Poetry Club, I am reading in a series called PAGE MEETS STAGE. I'm reading with the poet Martín Espada. If you don't know how excited I am to be doing this, then you really don't know me. And in case you don't: Martín is one of the biggest reasons I even decided to write poems. He's a great mentor and an even better friend. And we agree that White Castle may yet redeem this nation of its evils. We are reading together at 8pm on Thursday evening, and believe me when I tell you, it's going to be amazing. I'm at a place in my trajectory where I feel I genuinely have something to say. And he's got some insanely great new work. So, here we are. And we have a stage. And you? You could be there live, or you can check out from anywhere in the world. But of course, live is living. And living poetry is kinda something special.

What's activism? How about a free, student-run clinic for the uninsured? How about one that is in the shadow of Columbia University, one called CoSMO? How about one that services an overwhelming number of Latino and Latina patients, along with a massive percentage of the underserved in Morningside Heights and beyond? The tickets for this event are $20 apiece, and it goes to benefit this amazing clinic. Who's performing? Martín Espada is reading poetry, and Yerbabuena is providing the music. Bomba, plena, poesía, y fiesta. You are not ready, folks. But, maybe you will be. It happens at the Miller Theatre, 7pm on Friday night at 2960 Broadway. Political poetry. Hell yes.

I won't be mad at you if you go to Sarah Lawrence. But you'll be mad at yourself if you had a chance to be at an Acentos reading like this, and didn't at least try to go: Martín Espada, LiYun Alvarado, Diana Marie Delgado, Carlos Andres Gomez, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Paul Martinez Pompa, Anthony Morales, Urayoan Noel, Willie Perdomo, and some special guest readers. Hosted by your boy Fish Vargas, who is celebrating the move to California. And there WILL be guests. And it WILL be packed, and it WILL be amazing. And the best part is, we're coming home for it. The old Blue Ox Bar, where Acentos was born in 2003, has been transformed into a spot called Sweetwater's Bar and Grill, complete with a hi-tech audio makeover and expanded seating in the rear of the building. (No more sitting in the windows, for you vets.) Where is Sweetwater's? Why, it's at 139th Street and 3rd Avenue, one block from the 6 train, right around the corner from the Spanic Attack folks (look em up!), and right where it needs to be: The Bronx, NYC.

Here's what I can tell you. I just got home from a literary conference (AWP) that was amazing in what it defined as possibility. My future wife and I got to hang with friends and family, and we got to ask ourselves what it means to be community-oriented in the practice of literature and the writing of poetry. It seems absurd on its face. But when I tell you that the space founded by poets Oscar Bermeo and Fish Vargas in 2003 is something me, one of the most serious embodiments of community they talked about at AWP...I am not suffering from hyperbole. If you are cynical, or if your eye simply switches at the thought of poets having epiphanies in large groups, all I can say, in the words of Willie Perdomo, is: Bienvenido. You can come too. And you can join us this weekend as we keep up telling the U.S. literary establishment that silence is not an option for this community.

I am excited to hear Latino and Latina poets. I am excited about poetry again.

Vaya familia. Come out this weekend. You'll be excited too.

Rich Villar.

Thursday, April 15 @ 8pm
Bowery Poetry Club
featuring Martin Espada and Rich Villar
308 Bowery between Houston and Bleecker.
$12 cover.

Friday, April 16 @ 7pm
Miller Theatre
featuring poetry by Martin Espada and music by Yerbabuena
2960 Broadway
$20 tickets

Saturday, April 17 @ 7pm
Sweetwater's Bar and Grill
Featuring Martín Espada, LiYun Alvarado, Diana Marie Delgado, Carlos Andres Gomez, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Paul Martinez Pompa, Anthony Morales, Urayoan Noel, and Willie Perdomo. Special guests. Hosted by Fish Vargas


cb2471 said...

ya tu sabes, Fish, incredible line-up you got for Acentos Saturday.
For Friday's La Cura del Encanto CoSMO Benefit with Martin Espada/Yerbabuena event at the Miller Theatre online tickets on sale up till 5pm Friday, 4/16/10

any questions on the event, have peeps email me, Cyrus Boquin, MD, MPH at

Rich Villar said...

Dr. Boquin: We'll make sure we get people up to the Miller Theatre as well. That's going to be a hell of an event. You should come out to the Bowery tomorrow too.

This is Rich Villar, though. :-) Fish is my partner at Acentos. You'll meet us both soon.

sonja said...


It's been a while, but I wanted to congratulate you on your upcoming nuptials.