Monday, 19 December 2016

Miguel Piñero (December 19, 1946 – June 16, 1988) - Outlaw Poet

Miguel Piñero was born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico on this day December 19th 1946. With his parents he arrived in New York at the age of 4 and following the desertion of his father in 1954, Manuel and his mother moved into a basement and had to live off welfare. At school, Piñero was a troubled child. He was transferred to three different schools because of truancy. He learned how to survive in the tough streets as the hip youth, “Mickey.”
 Piñero’s early influences included his mother  who was a novice fiction writer and like his father, loved to tell stories. Piñero also wrote small pieces of fiction during his youth. However, his passion for fiction did not keep him from crime and drugs. He gained the first of what would be many criminal convictions for theft. This was at the age of eleven. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx. Subsequently Piñero joined a street gang called "The Dragons" and by the time he was 14 he was hustling in the streets. Piñero was a drug addict before he reached his 20s and had a long criminal record. By 1972 when Piñero was 25 he was incarcerated in the notorious Sing Sing Prison. This was for armed robbery. Ir was while serving time in prison that he wrote the powerful play Short Eyes as part of a playwriting workshop for inmates. The play is based on his experiences in prison and portrays life and death among prison inmates.Two years later, this play would catapult him into literary fame with it winning the New York Critics Circle Award and was subsequently made into a film.
Piñero continued to write after he left prison and he also began to act with small film roles.Piñero turned his attention to mentoring young Puerto Rican youth. He turned his apartment into an informal outreach center for at-risk youths. He mentored them in writing and was determined to increase their self-confidence as “Nuyoricans,” or Puerto Ricans living as racialized and impoverished minorities in New York. In the 1970s, Piñero co-founded the Nuyorican ("New York-Puerto Rican") Poets Cafe with a group of artists including Miguel Algarin, who became one of his best friends. The Poets Cafe is a place for performance of poetry based on the experience of being a Puerto Rican in New York, where poets who recited their fierce, streetwise verses from the tiny stage of the Nuyorican cafe on the lower East Side in a gritty, urban style that is said to have been a precursor to rap and hip hop.
 Pinero was by now considered a talented writer who could describe the evils of society. This was despite his continued drug addiction.A poet as well as a playwright, his influence as a pioneering voice for Latino artistic expression ran parallel to his unrepentent relish for narcotics, impulsive crime, transgressive sex and other forms of bad behaviour.
He stood his marginalised ground to unmask the hypocricy of mainstream society to attack the basis of Capitalism and American imperialism.His poems were composed and performed for his people, his neighbours, often to educate and connect the dots from capitalism, to racism and labor exploitation. For the irreverent Piñero, God created all that is ugly in the world. God is the greatest Capitalist of them all, and arch hypocrite.
He also wrote a bunch of TV scripts, and had supporting roles in a number of films, most notably the must-see Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), alongside Paul Newman. He also played the part of drug lord Esteban Calderone in several episodes of TV series Miami Vice in 1984, as well as writing the episode “Smuggler’s Blues” in the same year, for a time embraced and welcomed by the American establishment. But through it all, Miquel remained a junky, and continuously trolled the streets of the Lower East Side on an endless search for dope.
Unable to fit in and labelled a criminal, in his life and art he lashed back as an outlaw. It was from this stance that he embarked on attacking and protesting injustice, racial and economic oppression and hypocricy as an outlaw poet situated outside of societal norm. He was before his time, and his work has a special quality because he wrote about real people that other writers can only imagine, because of his knowledge of the street, he was able to get within the human psyche and bring that information to the page. A poet who was a product of this real cruel world, who  blessed us with an insider  view of a life that many people could only imagine.
Piñero  died on 16th June 1988 in New York City aged 41 of cirrhosis of the liver, still seeking his cause and his ashes were scattered across the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His life was made into a movie (Pinero) in 2001 and the part of Miguel Piñero was portrayed by Benjamin Bratt. The film was directed by Leon Ichaso.To many, the film commemorated the lifelong accomplishments of one of most important of Puerto Rican American writers.

The Records of Time

Two hundred fifty million years ago, long before the recorded history
of man, someone sat down and recorded it; And this man's name was
Time, and so it was only right that he should call his writings
"records" and add his name to history.Time, a young and ambitious
energy, lived in the summer hills of the Antarctic. He lived near a wise
old gentleman named His Story and his wife Truth, and their two sons
Hypocricy and Reality. Truth was a very blunt woman who always
tried her best to please all her family and friends, and being such a
pleasing woman, she always ended up on the bottom of the list and
was chosen by His Story to be in the kitchen doing dirty dishes.At
places she would try to get away from the kichen cand take Reality
for a day at the amusement center. Though she loved her family
equally, she had a certain affection for Reality, because everyone
in the community was afraid of him ( for reasons known only to
Unknown, a distant uncle) and she always tried her most to be with
him to comfort his loneliness. But that was only once in three
lifecycles that she would enjoy taking Reality in hand and walk on
the beaches of the North Lifeantic ocean and the earth would shake
with pleasure, as well as pain for both of them - Pain was there only
because Earth had some wildnotion that ther's a pain in pleasure and
so on, Once Truth and Reality were abot to leave the house to
buy a new set of garments of the spring. His Story caught them at
the door with faithfull Hypocricy at his right side ( they were more like
brothers under the skin than like Father and son). They began to
accuse them of not loving them enough, and to give foundation
to their argumented, they enlisted the aid of the poker-playing buddies,
Shame, Guilt, and Complexes. Reality ran out of the door, and Truth
stayed behind after much verbal abuse. She succumbed to their will
and hid the dirty laundry.That night, feeling very relieved of a
heavy burden, His Story and Hypocricy spent the night at Coward's
Bar and Grill where they celebrated their chained freedom, drinking lies
and making passionate love to the whore Cheat. This is where His
Story met Time. With the fumes of lies in their head, Time and His
Story became pretty good companions. They all sat around listening
to Hypocricy tell tales. Greed and Opportunity, two men who shared
the work of the lower forty's had stepped through the door and,
picking up the good vibes surrounding the table of His Story,
bought a round of lies for the group and stood drugged at the words
of Hypocrisy, a heavy rapper-in fact his nickname was Quibber with
the Jibbers. Opportunity hit upon an idea on how to become immortal
and ran it to Greed, who told His Story and Hypocricy, and Time was
jotting it all down for his records. Simultaneously they saw Reality
passing by the front of Coward's window dispay and fought among
each other for the richness of it all. His Story, having the most
intelligence and just plain goog old game, told them that he had the
secret of immortality and that their was only room for one more in
the zone of immortality. Being a fair man, he declared that whoever
came to his house with the largest number of followers would share
the bed with the secret of immortalit, his wife Truth. Greed,
Opportunity, and Hypocricy jumped out of their chairs and raced out
the door in a mad dash for followes, circling the globr a million ways
in charades. Hypocricy crawled, Greed took to the winds, Opportunity
sailed the seas, while His Story laughed at the tears his wife Truth
would shed, and time- well Time, he just stood still...

La Bodega Sold Dreams

dreamt i was a poet
writin' silver sailin' songs
strong and powerful crashin' thru
walls of steel and concrete
erected in minds weak
those asleep
replacin' a hobby of paper candy
wrappin', collectin'
potent to ' pregnate sterile young

i dreamt i was this poet
words glitterin' brite and bold
strikin' a new rush for god
in las bodegas

wher our poets' words and songs
are sung
sunlite stealin' thru venetian
eyes hatin', workin' off time
and swearin'
for the final dime
runnin' a maze
a token ride
perspiration insultin' poets'
words stoppin' on red
goin' on green
poets' dreams
endin' in a factory as one
in a million

buyin' bodega sold dreams ...

Seekin' The Cause

he was Dead
he never Lived
he died seekin' a Cause
seekin' the Cause
he said
he never saw the cause
but he heard
the cause
heard the cryin' of hungry ghetto children
heard the warnin' from Malcolm
heard the tractors pave new routes to new prisons
died seekin' the Cause
seekin' a Cause
he was dead on arrival
he never really Lived
uptown . . . downtown . . . crosstown
body was round all over town
seekin' the Cause
thinkin' the Cause was 75 dollars & gator shoes
thinkin' the Cause was sellin' the white lady to black
thinkin' the cause is to be found in gypsy rose or j. b.
or dealin' wacky weed
and singin' du-wops in the park after some chi-chiba
he died seekin' the Cause
died seekin' a Cause
and the Cause was dyin' seekin' him
and the Cause was dyin' seekin' him
and the Cause was dyin' seekin' him
he wanted a color t. v.
wanted a silk on silk suit

Seeking the cause (2001)

A Lower Eastside Poem

Just once before I die
I want to climb up on a
tenement sky
to dream my lungs out till
I cry
then scatter my ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

So let me sing my song tonight
let me feel out of sight
and let all eyes be dry
when they scatter my ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

From Houston to 14th Street
from Second Avenue to the mighty D
here the hustlers & suckers meet
the ****s & freaks will all get
on the ashes that have been scattered
thru the Lower East Side.

There's no other place for me to be
there's no other place that I can see
there's no other town around that
brings you up or keeps you down
no food little heat sweeps by
fancy cars & pimps' bars & juke saloons
& greasy spoons make my spirits fly
with my ashes scattered thru the
Lower East Side . . .

A thief, a junkie I've been
committed every known sin
Jews and Gentiles . . . Bums & Men
of style . . . run away child
police shooting wild . . .
mother's futile wails . . . pushers
making sales . . . dope wheelers
& cocaine dealers . . . smoking pot
streets are hot & feed off those who bleed to death . . .

all that's true
all that's true
all that is true
but this ain't no lie
when I ask that my ashes be scattered thru
the Lower East Side.

So here I am, look at me
I stand proud as you can see
pleased to be from the Lower East
a street fighting man
a problem of this land
I am the Philosopher of the Criminal Mind
a dweller of prison time
a cancer of Rockefeller's ghettocide
this concrete tomb is my home
to belong to survive you gotta be strong
you can't be shy less without request
someone will scatter your ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

I don't wanna be buried in Puerto Rico
I don't wanna rest in Long Island Cemetery
I wanna be near the stabbing shooting
gambling fighting & unnatural dying
& new birth crying
so please when I die . . .
don't take me far away
keep me near by
take my ashes and scatter them thru out
the Lower East Side . . .

The Book of Genesis According to St. Miguelito

Before the beginning
God created God
In the beginning
God created the ghettos & slums
and God saw this was good.
So God said,
"Let there be more ghettos & slums"
and there were more ghettos & slums.
But God saw this was plain
to decorate it
God created leadbase paint and then
God commanded the rivers of garbage & filth
to flow gracefully through the ghettos.
On the third day
because on the second day God was out of town
On the third day
God's nose was running
& his jones was coming down and God
in his all knowing wisdom
knew he was sick
he needed a fix
so God
created the backyards of the ghettos
& the alleys of the slums
in heroin & cocaine
with his divine wisdom & grace
God created hepatitis
who begat lockjaw
who begat malaria
who begat degradation
who begat
and God knew this was good
in fact God knew things couldn't git better
but he decided to try anyway
On the fourth day
God was riding around Harlem in a gypsy cab
when he created the people
and he created these beings in ethnic proportion
but he saw the people lonely & hungry
and from his eminent rectum
he created a companion for these people
and he called this companion
who begat racism
who begat exploitation
who begat male chauvinism
who begat machismo
who begat imperialism
who begat colonialism
who begat wall street
who begat foreign wars
and God knew
and God saw
and God felt this was extra good
and God said
On the fifth day
the people kneeled
the people prayed
the people begged
and this manifested itself in a petition
a letter to the editor
to know why? WHY? WHY? qué pasa babyyyyy?????
and God said,
"My fellow subjects
let me make one thing perfectly clear
by saying this about that:
NO . . .. . .. . ..COMMENT!"
but on the sixth day God spoke to the people
he said . . . "PEOPLE!!!
the ghettos & the slums
& all the other great things I've created
will have dominion over thee
and then
he commanded the ghettos & slums
and all the other great things he created
to multiply
and they multiplied
On the seventh day God was tired
so he called in sick
collected his overtime pay
a paid vacation included
But before God got on that t. w. a.
for the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico
He noticed his main man Satan
planting the learning trees of consciousness
around his ghetto edens
so God called a news conference
on a state of the heavens address
on a coast to coast national t. v. hook up
and God told the people
to be
and the people were cool
and the people kept cool
and the people are cool
and the people stay cool
and God said
Vaya . .…

 Pinero (2001)

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