April 06, 2004

The Life of Piri Thomas Highlighted

Down These Mean Streets was an eye-opening read when I was a teen. Piri Thomas articulated many of my feelings. Especially being a Black child with a Latino grandfather -- albeit, through marriage. It's good to see this premiering tonite on PBS (in the NYC area, check local listings):

Every Child is Born a Poet

An incendiary mix of documentary, poetry, storytelling, drama, and performance, Every Child is Born a Poet explores the life and work of Piri Thomas, the 75 year-old Afro-Cuban-Puerto Rican author of the classic autobiographical novel Down These Mean Streets (1967). The film traces Thomas' path from childhood to manhood in New York City's Spanish Harlem, El Barrio, from the 1930's through the 1960's: his parents' immigrant experience, home life during the Great Depression, membership in barrio youth gangs, his struggle to come to terms with his mixed-racial identity, travels as a teen-age merchant marine, his heroin addiction, his notorious armed robbery of a Greenwich Village nightclub, his six years spent in prison, and his emergence as a writer. Thomas' coming-ofage story is counter-pointed with verité scenes of his on-going work of forty-five years as an educator and activist empowering marginalized and incarcerated youths. A stylized, genre-spanning production, Every Child is Born a Poet includes rare archival footage & still photographs and provocative mixed-media artwork, as it examines Thomas' use of creative expression as a means of confronting poverty, racism, violence and isolation. Pulsating with an original Latin Jazz score, Every Child is Born a Poet is a riveting portrait of a life lived through struggle, self-discovery, and transformation.

I'm sooo late with this, so you'll have to check your local PBS listings. I'm sure it will play a few times. Seeing the doc mentioned on a list-serv jogged my memory about this unlinked event tomorrow:

Poet Willie Perdomo will be reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble Main Store (didja know they had one?!) for his second collection of poetry, Smoking Lovely.

Like his first collection, Where a Nickel Costs a Dime, the book includes a CD of Perdomo reading his poetry. It's a feature that I enjoy, being able to hear the inflections and rhythms of the actual poet, not just my own imagined reading.

The event begins at 6:30pm and I'll be there a bit early. This B&N is located at 105 5th Avenue, on the corner of 18th Street. Email me if you plan to attend.

Posted by ronn at April 6, 2004 08:34 PM