In our latest installment of Sabiduría: Poetry Edition, or words of wisdom from poets, we remember the late poet Abraham Laviera. Tato, as he was known in NYC, was one of the greatest representatives of the Nuyorican movement. He passed away this last November. We gathered a few of his friends and admirers to speak about his legacy and to hear some of Tato’s immortal words.
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Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and Sery Colón were close friends of Tato Laviera. In their extended interview they talk about Tato’s legacy as one of the most prominent individuals in the Nuyorican movement as well as the last time the three were together, days before Tato Laviera’s death.
In this web exclusive, Sery Colón reads “cuban” and “homenaje a don luis pales matos” by Tato Laviera. Jesús Papoleto Meléndez reads “commonwealth” by Tato Laviera as well as “tocayo Jesús y Jesús,” a poem he read at Tato Laviera’s memorial.
Urayoán Noel, a poet and Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Albany, speaks about Tato Laviera’s contributions to the art world as well as his personal connection to Tato’s works in this extended interview.
Urayoán Noel reads “my graduation speech,” “commonwealth,” and “latero story (can pickers)” by Tato Laviera. He also reads two of his poems, “Barrio Speedwagon Blues” and “Co-opt City,” that were inspired by Tato Laviera’s legacy.
Jesús Papoleto Meléndez is a 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. He was born and raised in New York City and became interested in the arts at an early age, going to the Boys’ Club to study acting and participating in team sports with my neighborhood friends. By the time he was 19 years old, during the heyday of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movement, he was already writing poetry. He published my 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. He is often referred to as one of the “founders” of the Nuyorican Poets’ movement.
Sery Colón is an actor, former dancer, declamador/poet/director, produce and cultural activist. He was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico but has been living continuously in New York City since his early teens. Sery studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School of Modern Dance and studied acting at the Eric Santamaría Drama Studio both in New York City. He is the founder of Agüeybaná Productions and the former Agüeybaná Bookstore. Sery has performed in many theaters and night clubs in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut as well as in Honduras and Central America.
Urayoán Noel is a poet, performer, scholar, and translator who is currently an Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Albany and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at NYU. His books include the poetry collections Kool Logic/La lógica kool (Bilingual Press, 2005), Boringkén (Ediciones Callejón/La Tertulia, Puerto Rico, 2008), Hi-Density Politics (BlazeVOX, 2010), and Los días porosos (Catafixia Editorial, Guatemala, 2012), and the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming). His other works include the performance DVD Kool Logic Sessions (Bilingual Press, 2005, with Monxo López), the multimedia project The Edgemere Letters (2011, with Martha Clippinger), and, as translator, the chapbooks ILUSOS by Edwin Torres (Atarraya Cartonera, Puerto Rico, 2010) and Belleza y Felicidad (Belladonna, 2005). He has been a fellow of CantoMundo, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and the Ford Foundation, and his creative and critical writings have appeared in Latino Studies, Contemporary Literature, Small Axe, Bomb, Fence, and in numerous national and international anthologies. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Urayoán Noel earned his B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, his M.A. from Stanford, and his Ph.D. from NYU. He lives in the Bronx.