Miguel Piñero: poet, playwright, actor, and the cofounder of Nuyorican Poets Café with Miguel Algarín, Pedro Pietri

  • His poetry and the plays are so fraught with the things that aggravated and influenced him and ultimately made his life successful. He took this form and infused it with an urban, Latin lifeblood that had never been used in poetry before. He was remarkable as a writer in terms of never really self-editing himself or censoring himself.
  • I happen to feel that [Piñero] was a romantic character and there was something about his love for land that was very wonderful, the way he held Puerto Rico, that elusive homeland in the foreground of his thoughts and writing. For all of us who are uprooted and thrown into this city, to keep a semblance of that is always so dignified. That would make it perhaps a bit nostalgic for me because people like that don’t seem to be around anymore.


I spent the better part of yesterday responding to submissions to The BeZine and setting up International Poetry Month blog posts for our special series, which I am collaborating on with Michael Dickel. When I was through I decided to watch the acclaimed movie, Piñero, which I’ve been wanting to see for some time. I’m streaming through Amazon. So far, so good.  Benjamin Bratt’s performance is stellar. I’ve taken a break to share this with you.

Miguel Piñero was an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, and a leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement. He was inducted posthumously into the New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2013.

Piñero was born on December 19, 1946, in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. In 1950 he moved with his parents and sister to Loisaida (the Lower East Side) in New York City. When his father abandoned the family, his mother moved her children into a basement, applied for and received welfare.

Piñero would steal food to feed his mother and siblings. Thus the criminal convictions came early in his life. The first time when he was eleven years old. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx, New York, and to Otisville State Training School for Boys. He joined a street gang called “The Dragons” when he was 13; when he was 14, he was hustling in the streets of Manhattan. Over time he was drawn heavily to alcohol and drugs and died prematurely – aged 41 – on June 16, 1988 from cirrhosis. 

Eventually, Piñero moved to Brooklyn, where he and three other friends committed robberies, until they were caught at a jewelry store. Piñero was sent to Rikers Island prison in 1964.  In 1972, he was incarcerated in Sing Sing prison for second-degree armed robbery. His first literary work was Black Woman with a Blonde Wig On. Marvin Felix Camillo, the director of The Family, an acting troupe made up of ex-cons, submitted the poem to a contest, which it won.

While serving time in prison, Piñero wrote the play Short Eyes as part of the inmates’ playwriting workshop. Reviewer Mel Gussow came to see it, and due to his review in the New York Times, the director of the Theater at Riverside Church invited Piñero to present the play there.

“The theatre is the only thing that belongs to the people.” Miguel Piñero.

When Piñero left Sing Sing on parole in 1973, he was able to present Short Eyes with The Family. The title comes from “short heist”, the prison slang term for child molestation. Puerto Ricans could not pronounce the ‘h’ so it became “short eyes.” The play is a drama based on his experiences in prison and portrays how a house of detention populated primarily by black and Latino inmates is affected by the incarceration there of a white pedophile. Pedophiles are considered the lowest form of prison life. After all, the prisoners have siblings and children for whom they have concerns.

In 1974, Short Eyes was presented at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Theater impresario Joseph Papp (played in the movie by Mandy Patinkin) saw the play and was impressed. Papp moved the production to Broadway.

The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the “best play of the year”. The play catapulted Piñero to literary fame. Short Eyes was published in book form by the editorial house Hill & Wang. It was the first play written by a Puerto Rican to be put on Broadway. This initial success was followed by: Sideshow(1974), The Guntower (1976), The Sun Always Shines for the Cool (1976),Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief (1977), and Playland Blues (1980).

The following excerpt from the movie serves as an intro to it and to Piñero’s work if you are not familiar with him.  Also recommended is Outlaw, The Collected Works of Miguel Piñero

This post is complied from the following sources: Wikipedia, Poetry Foundation, Outlaw:The Complete Works of Miguel Piñero, and the movie Piñero.


Jamie Dedes:

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

In the time of COVID – 19: A Few Uplifting Words From My Cousin Dan …

As kids and probably the last time Dan was shorter than me. He stands 6’5′ and I stand a scant 5’2″.

“Remember that each day is an opportunity given to us by God.” Fr. Dan

“Thank you Fr. Dan for reminding us.” The students at Holy Ghost Prep 



Cousin Dan’s students at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Pennsylvania asked him to do a video and this is the result. It has been making the rounds on Facebook, well received.  So here it is for you, an island of peace and uncommon good sense for troubled times.

My cousin Dan:

What Have We Done That People Can Pick Up Weapons and Kill?, Fr. Daniel Sormani, C.S.Sp.

Fr. Daniel S. Sormani, C.S.Sp.

My cousin is a priest who has lived and worked in Algeria and Dubai and until recently was teaching theology at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. He asks in a feature article for The BeZine, What Have We Done that People Can Pick-up Weapons and Kill.  

“We have become our own worst enemy. Whenever we separate the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’, whenever we accept blind generalizations and cease to see a unique individual before us, whenever we forget we are all victims of carefully orchestrated deceit and deception for wealth and power, the force of darkness wins. Bullets will never win this struggle, only the heart and mind will.”

Mom’s rosary beads and Dan’s Arabic Bible

The CitySon Philosopher, me, and Cousin Dan, Gamble Gardens, Palo Alto, CA 2018
© 2020, all photos Jamie Dedes and family

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Hanged Man, a poem by Clarissa Simmens

Ryder Waite Tarot XII, U.S. Public Domain

“’Christ! You know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me'” *



Crow cawing in early morning clouds
Tallest tree invisible in fog
Tarot’s Hanged Man
Initiation into a mysterious world
Odin hung for 9 days
Euhemerizationally** sacrificing his eye
Think of other mythical and biblical
Heroes hung over the centuries
All in the name of knowledge
Ah, but John Lennon
Knew he was a sacrifice
No worse than others
Yet, in his quest for wisdom
He cried out to us:
“Christ! You know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me” *
He knew, he knew
But tell me who
Would assassinate a rocker?
So many of us
Hanging in silence
Smoke and steam
Muffling our dreams
Then thinking we’ve learned
Slip off the slip knot
Abrading the ankle’s skin
Moving into the Earth’s valley
Carrying new knowledge
But never satisfied
And in time
Wake up to find
We’re back on the tree
Dangling in space
Another lesson to memorize
A path to retrace…

.
(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

.
This is poem is an excerpt from Clarissa’s collection Cording the Cards and shared here with Clarissa’s permissions.

,
* The Ballad of John and Yoko

CLARISSA SIMMENS (Poeturja) is an independent poet; Romani drabarni (herbalist/advisor); ukulele and guitar player; wannabe song writer; and music addict. Favorite music genres include Classic Rock, Folk, Romani (Gypsy), and Cajun with an emphasis on guitar and violin music mainly in a Minor key. Find her onAmazon’s Author Page, on her blog, and on Facebook HERE.

Clarissa’s books include: Chording the Cards & Other Poems, Plastic Lawn Flamingos & Other Poems, and Blogetressa, Shambolic Poetry.


Poetry Rocks the World!

Jamie DedesAbout / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Link HERE for Free Human Rights eCourse designed and delivered by United For Human Rights, Making Human Rights a Fact



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

For the Thanksgiving holiday, the wise Brother David Steindl-Rast

May you have much for which to be thankful!



I’m putting the site on hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States and will return on Wednesday, December 4 with the next Wednesday Writing Prompt.


GRATITUDE: This stunning video was filmed by Louis Shwartsberg. As visually appealing as it is, its peace and healing value lies in the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast.



RECENT BY JAMIE ON MEDIUM:



Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications: Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Womawords Literary Press, November 19, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton