Monthly Archives: February 2014

Week of March 3rd: Poetry of Miguel Piñero

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For Monday, March 3rd, we finally move on to Miguel Piñero and read poetry selections from Outlaw: The Collected Works. Start with the “Introduction to the Poetry of Miguel Piñero” at the beginning of the book. Then read “La Bodega Sold Dreams”, “A Lower East Side Poem”, “The Book of Genesis According to San Miguelito”, “This is Not the Place Where I Was Born”, “Black Woman With the Blond Wig On”, and “Kill, Kill, Kill”. (Up to page 17.) It’s not a lot of reading, however, you must read the poems slowly and carefully and choose 2 of them to read more than once. Take notes on key points that you think are significant, funny, interesting, or do a nice job of telling the story of the city.

Questions to think about as you read:

  • Based on Piñero’s biographical context, how do his stories match the life he’s living?
  • How does Piñero’s work differ from Pietri’s in form or content?
  • What language does he use and what effect does that have on his poetry?
  • What audiences do you think Piñero is writing for?
  • How do the characters in Piñero’s descriptions of “Loisaida” (Lower East Side) differ from Pietri’s characters in El Barrio?

    For Wednesday, March 5th, read the poems “Running Scared”, “Seeking the Cause”, “New York City Hard Times Blues”, “Bastard Streets”, and “The Lower East Side is Taking” from Outlaw. Also read “Introduction to the Drama of Miguel Piñero in Outlaw. Again, it’s not a lot of reading, but you need to read the poems slowly and carefully.

    Watch Piñero read “Seeking the Cause”



    Note: La Ciudad/ The City and the full video of Dutchman will be up on the “Video” page. Same password as the “Readings” page.

  • Week of February 24th: Dutchman

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    Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman

    For Monday the 24th, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). We’ll start by finishing discussion on David Riker’s film La Ciudad / The City, which we viewed in class last week. (It’s now on the course website on the Video page— same password as Readings). If you missed a class last week, you can catch up. For Monday, read only the first half of the book :the play Dutchman. Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully. I’ll screen a version of the play in class.

    Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?
  • Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?
  • For Wednesday the 26th, We will also have a special guest speaker, Don Ramon of Rutgers University, to facilitate the discussion and present the play.

    Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.


    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University

    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University

    Donavan L. Ramon earned his B.A. in English and the Special Honors Curriculum at Hunter College (CUNY), where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. A specialist in African American Literature, he earned his M.A. in English at Rutgers University in 2012 and is now writing a dissertation that traces a genealogy of twentieth-century narratives of racial passing. Donavan coordinates the African American Graduate Interest Group at Rutgers where he is also a graduate assistant at the Center for Race and Ethnicity and he serves as the Member-at-Large for Diversity with the Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA).

    Week of 2/19: Schedule change — David Riker’s La Ciudad

    la__cuidad

    Important announcements:

  • We’re off Monday for the Presidents’ Day holiday and have a special Thursday meeting, which is a Monday schedule in CUNY.
  • Because of uneven availability of Miguel Piñero’s Outlaw at the bookstore, we’re switching up the plan for next week — details below.
  • Please do either go to the bookstore and get your copy of Outlaw or order it now and make sure you’ll have it sometime next week. Also, get your copies of Dutchman and Bodega Dreams, which you’ll need soon as well.
  • For Wednesday 2/19, we’ll take a turn into filmic representations of the city and city life from an immigrant’s perspective with a screening of director David Riker’s 1998 film La Ciudad/(The City). we’ll watch the first half of La Ciudad on Wednesday. Prepare to take good notes, as there will be a writing assignment on it at some point. For people following online, though apparently out of print, the film’s available on Netflix and at the NY Public Library if you’re in the NYC area. Read this short review and one from the New York Times of the film.

    Watch Riker’s short documentary of the making of the film on YouTube.



    On Thursday 2/20, we’ll finish watching La Ciudad. In preparation, watch this YouTube video with director and screenwriter David Riker discussing his approach to making the film. Also think about the following thematic questions:

  • What does the film tell us about immigrants/migrants to the city?
  • How are the visions here similar or different from those we read in Pietri, Pinero, and Quinonez?
  • What does it tell us about work in the city and, again, similarities and differences with/from the Pietri’s vision, particularly “Puerto Rican Obituary”?
  • What sort of environment does the city present in the film?
  • How does the notion of urban space work in the film?
  • Week of February 10th: Pedro Pietri, continued

    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project

    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project



    Updated 2/5, 3 PM
    CORRECTION: Because the bookstore does not have copies of Outlaw yet, For Monday February 10th continue reading Pietri poems from the Puerto Rican Obituary PDF (on the Readings page) assigned for Wednesday. Read: “The Broken English Dream”, “Beware of Signs”, “Suicide Note from a Cockroach”, “love Poem for My People”, “To Whoever it May Concern”, and “Unemployed”.

    Wednesday February 12th, Lehman is closed for Lincoln’s birthday. Reading for the mini-break will be posted by next class. We’ll continue with Outlaw.

    For Monday February 10th, we move on to Miguel Piñero and read poetry selections from Outlaw: The Collected Works. Start with the “Introduction to the Poetry of Miguel Piñero” at the beginning of the book. Then read “La Bodega Sold Dreams”, “A Lower East Side Poem”, “The Book of Genesis According to San Miguelito”, “This is Not the Place Where I Was Born”, “Black Woman With the Blond Wig On”, and “Kill, Kill, Kill”. (Up to page 17.) It’s not a lot of reading, however, you must read the poems slowly and carefully and choose 2 of them to read more than once. Take notes on key points that you think are significant, funny, interesting, or do a nice job of telling the story of the city.

    Questions to think about as you read:

  • How does Piñero use language in his work, including both the use of Spanglish and how he writes in English?
  • What subjects does he write about and how does that reflect a particular urban experience?
  • What audience do you think he’s writing to?
  • How does he use humor in his writing?
  • As people who live in the city, what themes or stories can you connect to in the writing?