Weeks of September 23 & 30: Piñero’s drama and Bodega Dreams



  • Tuesday 9/23 is a Friday schedule in CUNY and Lehman’s closed for Rosh HaShanah next Thursday 9/25. L’Shanah Tovah! We don’t meet next week at all.
  • There are some minor changes to the order of readings on the syllabus. As always, check the course updates page for the latest.
  • Groups have been formed for the group presentation. If you missed class on 9/18, send me an email for the remaining options.

    For Tuesday, September 30th review “The Drama of Miguel Piñero” at the front of Outlaw and read Piñero’s play Short Eyes (pages 193-243).

    Questions to think about to guide your reading:

  • What characters does he show in the play?
  • What language does he use and what effect does that have?
  • What audiences do you think Piñero is writing for?
  • What’s the setting he chooses and what side of the city does that show?

    Watch the legendary singer Curtis Mayfield sing one of the songs from the film version (he also had a small part in the film and composed/performed the soundtrack).


    For Thursday, October 2nd:, we move to the first novel of the semester. Read pages 1-54 in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams.

    A few things to pay attention to in the book are:

  • The characters Quiñonez creates and what slice of city life they show
  • How urban space is shown in the book and what different characters think about their surroundings
  • The role of culture and what it means
  • Quiñonez’s relationship as a writer to Pietri and Piñero (there are numerous references to both and their poetry throughout the book)
  • The “American Dream” and what it means to the characters in the book
  • How different generations of immigrants/migrants relate to the city and city life
  • Race and gender relations
  • This isn’t a complete list, but these are a few key things that jump out at me. Begin to look for connections/ similarities / differences in things we’ve read (and other things you’ve read/ watched /studied in other classes, etc).


    Week of September 16th: Miguel Piñero


    For Tuesday, September 16th, we move on to Miguel Piñero and read poetry selections from Outlaw: The Collected Works. (Re)read 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”,
  • “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 Thursday, September 18th, 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. Again, it’s not a lot of reading, but you need to read the poems slowly and carefully.

    Watch Piñero read “Seeking the Cause”

  • Week of September 9: Pietri, Nuyorican Poetry, and publishing

    Update: Tuesday 9/9: Assignment for Thursday 9/11 posted

    Tuesday 9/9: Pedro Pietri; “Puerto Rican Obituary”

    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project
    Pedro Pietri reading at the Poetry Project

    For Tuesday, continue reading Pedro Pietri. (Re?)Read “Puerto Rican Obituary” and “The Broken English Dream”. Also read “Suicide Note from a Cockroach”, “Love Poem for My People”, “Unemployed” and “OD”.

    Now that we’ve covered some of Pietri’s life, think about how points from his personal outlook on religion, death, and the ambivalence toward the American Dream are reflected in the poems. Again, look for specific points that reveal how he approaches the subjects and make a note of them.

    The presentation I did in class today is on the Lecture Notes page. Use some of the contextual questions to help guide your reading and what to focus on.

    Think of the following questions as you read:

  • How does Pietri’s writing define the urban experience for the people he’s writing about?
  • What type of urban environment does he describe?
  • What language does he use and how does that reflect the urban situation?
  • Do you see any of the points Pietri makes in the interview reflected in the writing? Make note of a few examples.
  • Thursday 9/11: Guest Speaker. Gabrielle David of 2Leaf Press on publishing, Nuyorican poetry, and Pietri.

    On Thursday, we’ll have a special guest speaker: Gabrielle David (bio), editor of Phati’tude literary magazine and principal at 2Leaf Press, which has published some key works in Nuyorican poetry and culture and is working on getting Pietri’s work re-released.

    Watch the following for Thursday’s class:

    Short video introduction to poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez in which he reads a poem and talks about El Barrio/ East Harlem

    “Last Poet in Harlem”. Poet Abiodun Oyewole reads a poem from his new 2Leaf press book and talks about his relationship to Harlem.

    Things to think about in the videos:

  • How does place relate to their work?
  • How do they describe the influence of urban space and their neighborhoods on their work?
  • Read the following for Thursday’s class:

  • “Introduction to the Poetry of Miguel Piñero” from Outlaw: The Collected Works.
  • “Introduction to the Drama of Miguel Piñero” from Outlaw: The Collected Works
  • .