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Today we lost Miguel Algarín

Today we lost Miguel Algarín. He is a co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City. I remember the first time I went there. It was like traveling on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Inside of those walls so many poets shared their verse, and they did it in the spirit of comradery for the craft. I wasn’t alone. I carried many voices with me in my head. My poetry teacher Dr. Magner, used to stand at the front of the class like a 1990’s Walt Whitman reading his work in a voice that was uniquely his. His slow cadence and purposeful enunciation made everything sound deeply profound. I don’t remember any of his poems, but I do remember him as the voice I carried inside of my mind when I read my own poems. That voice was fused with Maya Angelou, who for me had the perfect cadence and pitch. Like her, I plan to rise until the skies have opened and the heavens welcome me back in. Another poet who influenced me was Edgar Henry. He was a native of San Francisco , I think, but he had spent several decades in Tokyo. He was wild and loved his wine. His passion for poetry was the most powerful I have ever encountered. It was everything he breathed and everything he thought of. He was the first to believe in mine. He would swear on his life that I had a gift and wouldn't leave me alone until I shared words with the world. I do remember the first public performance I ever did. I was barely 26 years old at a venue in Tokyo called What the Dickens. Even Now, 20 something years later, I can recite the poem word for word. It's funny how poems that I used to read in those early days are still in my head. I can tell you about five or six of them by heart, but I can never remember the ones that I wrote recently. Although we spent our Sundays exchanging words at What the Dickens, my dream had always been to travel to New York City to stand on the stage of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and deliver a poem. And when the day actually arrived, I read the same piece I read at What the Dickens on that first night. I have attached it here so you can hear it if you like.

The photo above doesn't have much to do with this story. I took it years ago. The grey bearded gentleman is David T. Walker, a legendary guitarist who surprised me with his gentle kindness and the fact that he never uses a stage monitor. He also loves popcorn. I sometimes hear his strings in my head too, like wings giving flight to words.


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