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National Poetry Month

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Sunday 4/20/14 Show: Jesus Papoleto Meléndez

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Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Leslie Jean-Bart. Used with permission.

The next show will air on Sunday, April 20, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This week, “Suga’ In My Bowl” concludes its celebration of National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month by featuring New York-born Puerto Rican award-winning poet, playwright, teacher and activist Jesus Papoleto Meléndez. You can hear a short preview of the show below.



Jesus Papoleto Meléndez (Papo) is a proud Puerto Rican poet, playwright, educator and activist. His family migrated to this country from Puerto Rico and settled in El Barrio, East Harlem in the early 1950s. Papo was born and raised in New York City and became interested in the arts at an early age. By the time he was 19 years old, during the heyday of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movement, he was already writing poetry. Papo published his first poem, “Message To Urban Sightseers” in Talkin’ About Us (1969), and in a short period of time he published three volumes of poetry: Casting Long Shadows (1970), Have You Seen Liberation (1971), and Street Poetry & Other Poems (1972), that largely reflected the social and political issues of the day. For as long as he can remember, Papo always saw poetry as this powerfully potent weapon that tells truths, and while he sometimes became uncomfortable being labeled a “political” or “social” poet, much of everything he wrote at that time, was really a recording of what was going on in the world. Papo ultimately explored playwriting, and his play, “The Junkies Stole The Clock,” was eventually produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre’s Nuyorican Playwright’s Unit in April, 1974.

Papo is often referred to as one of the “founders” of the Nuyorican Poets’ movement, but really it was about a group of Puerto Rican artists-activists coming together to make a difference in our communities, something of which Papo is very proud to have been a part of, but certainly does not wholly define himself as a poet. Around this time, Papo also began teaching workshops, first through the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, as a poetry-facilitator in the public schools, which is what he’s done for over 30-years.

By 1980, Papo grew disillusioned by the politics of the city, and he left for the “greener pastures” of California where he continued to write in peace, perform, teach, and eventually published the poetry collection, Concertos On Market Street (1993).

Over the years, Papo has performed at hundreds of venues, thousands of poetry readings, and he has appeared in film, television and radio programs. Papo has been published in numerous magazines, journals, anthologies, and textbooks and is proud to say that his work has also been taught in schools across the country. Through the offering of his creative writing workshops, Papo knows that he has inspired the lives of thousands of young people – some of whom currently call themselves poets.

His latest book is Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry (2Leaf Press, 2012), a collected edition of Papo’s writing. It was adapted for the stage in 2014 by the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.

You can find out more about Papo, his work and upcoming events at his website.

Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Show engineered and produced by Joyce Jones. Hosted by Arts Producers Joyce Jones and Hank Williams.

Web Extras:

Watch Papo read his poem “Hey Yo! Yo Soy!” with the Welfare Poets live at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café!

Watch Papo read his poem “It Was So Fly” live at the Bronx Documentary Center in 2013.

Watch a short (5 minute) documentary on Papo by Vagabond Beaumont.

Sunday 4/13/14 Show: Amiri Baraka

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Photo Credit: Joyce Jones. Creative Commons licensed.

The next show will air on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this installment, Suga’ in My Bowl continues its celebration of National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month with a 2011 interview we did with the late poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka.



With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as a founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu.

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, Amiri Baraka left this world, but his Blues People (1963), remains a landmark work on African-American music a half-century after its publication and in 2012 he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Jazz Journalists’ Association for his music writings. With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. His Obie award-winning play Dutchman (1963) and The Slave (1964), helped solidify the revolutionary aesthetics of Black Arts and laid claim to the movement’s position as the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement.

Baraka’s Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems includes the title poem that headlined him in the media in ways rare to poets and authors. The recital of the poem “that mattered” engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the very governor of New Jersey and with a legion of detractors demanding his resignation as the state’s Poet Laureate because of Somebody Blew Up America’s provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001.

Baraka lived in Newark with his wife and author Amina Baraka; they have five children and led the word-music ensemble, Blue Ark: The Word Ship. Baraka was Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his awards and honors included an Obie, the American Academy of Arts & Letters award, the James Weldon Johnson Medal for contributions to the arts, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants, and Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Show engineered by Joyce Jones. Hosted by Arts Producers Joyce Jones, Hank Williams and contributor Kazembe Balagun.

In February 2014, we aired portions of a combination poetry tribute to Baraka and Jayne Cortez (who we interviewed in 2013). Both can be found in our audio archives.

Web Extra: Watch Baraka perform his classis “Whys/ Wise” with saxophonist Rob Brown.

Sunday 4/6/14 Show: The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughees

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The next show will air on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this installment, Suga’ in My Bowl sets off its celebration of National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month with a look at Langston Hughes. This week’s guest is Hughes biographer Arnold Rampersad. We will also take a quick look at a production of Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama” with Dr. Ron McCurdy, Professor of Music at the Thorton School of Music, University of Southern California.



Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. After graduation from high school, he spent a year in Mexico with his father, then a year studying at Columbia University. His first poem in a nationally known magazine was “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which appeared in The Crisis magazine in 1921. In 1925, he was awarded the First Prize for Poetry of the magazine Opportunity, the winning poem being “The Weary Blues,” which gave its title to his first book of poems, published in 1926. As a result of his poetry, Mr. Hughes received a scholarship to the historically Black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he earned his B.A. in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Litt.D. by his alma mater; he has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935), a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940), and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant (1947). From 1926 until his death in 1967, Langston Hughes devoted his time to writing and lecturing. He wrote poetry, short stories, autobiography, song lyrics, essays, humor, and plays. A cross section of his work was published in 1958 as The Langston Hughes Reader.

Dr. Rampersad’s 2-volume Hughes biography is considered the definitive work on the life and legacy of the great poet. Rampersad is an emeritus faculty member of Stanford University’s English Department and has written several critically acclaimed books, including biographical works on W.E.B. DuBois and Jackie Robinson.

Find out more information on Hughes on on the Langston Hughes Facebook page.

Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Show produced, engineered, edited, and hosted by Joyce Jones.

Web Extras:

Read Langston Hughes’s 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, calling for art that explicitly speaks to Black audiences and draws from cultural experiences and traditions. It was written in response to George Schuyler’s “The Negro Art Hokum”. The University of Illinois’s Langston Hughes page has lots more poems that can be read online.

Watch actor Malcolm Jamal Warner perform Hughes’s “12 Moods for Jazz” with the Ron McCurdy Jazz Quartet:



Watch the entire performance of Dr. Ron McCurdy’s multimedia Hughes show at Pasadena City College. Video is 73 minutes long.

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