Bendición: The complete (and excellent) poems of a Manhattan Puerto Rican poet – #poetry #bookreview

Bendicion Covers qx_5.5

Bendición

The Complete Poetry of Tato Laviera

Arte Público Presspaperback

Before his death in 2013 at age 54, Manhattan poet Tato Laviera achieved fame both for his excellent performance poetry and for his strong advocacy of Puerto Rico as an important part of American life and culture.

Laviera was born in Puerto Rico and had some of his early schooling there. But he spent much of his life living and working in New York City. He had several books published, including Enclave, winner of the American Book Award. And a number of his plays were produced in New York City and Chicago.

Bendición is an excellent tribute to Laviera’s writing skills and style. His poems often are in English, but sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in delightful mixtures of English and Spanish.

Laviera believed that being positive has important powers, even as he stood up strongly and vocally for those in racial and economic minorities in America.

“If there is anyone conspicuously absent from Tato’s cosmology,” writes Nicholás Kanellos in his preface to Bendición, “it is those New Yorkers who reign in board rooms and penthouses, the ‘one-percenters’ who ignore or disdain the lives that command Tato’s and our attention and compassion. Tato focuses fifty stories below to his fellow street-level survivors, hailing from all parts of the world and struggling to eke out a living in cramped sweatshops, dank factories, steamy kitchens or in the cacophony and miasma of the streets.”

But Laviera also was “a poet of love” and a very good one, indeed, Kanellos emphasizes.

Along with being a “complete” collection of published works, Bendición contains a number of Tato Laviera’s previously unpublished poems.

If you like poetry and American poets, this book can be a real eye-opener. How did you previously miss Tato Laviera’s fine, clear voice that is edged with very some mixed roots: Puerto Rico and its American possessor, plus Africa and Europe?

Si Dunn

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