Bendición: The Complete Poetry of Tato Laviera
by Tato Laviera
Introduction by Laura Lomas
Preface by Nicolás Kanellos
Publication Date: November 30, 2014
Bind: Trade Paperback
“i think in spanish / i write in english / i want to go back to puerto rico / but I wonder if my kink could live / in ponce, mayaguez and carolina.” Born in Puerto Rico but raised in New York City, Tato Laviera’s poetry reflects his bilingual, bicultural Nuyorican existence while celebrating the universality of the human condition and his European, indigenous and African roots.
Tato Laviera explores identity, community, urban life, oppression and much more in these multi-layered pieces that spanned his too-short life. Many deal with themes specific to the immigrant experience, such as the sense of alienation many feel when they are not accepted in their native or adopted land. In “nuyorican,” he writes about returning to his native island, only to be looked down upon for his way of speaking: “ahora regreso, con un corazón boricua, y tú / me desprecias, me miras mal, me atacas mi hablar.”
Music and dance, an integral part of Puerto Rican life, permeate Laviera’s verse and pay homage to the Caribbean’s African roots. “i hear merengue in french haiti / and in dominican blood, / and the guaracha in yoruba, / and the mambo sounds inside the plena.”
Including all of his previously published poems and some that have never been published, these are bold expressions of hybridity in which people of mixed races speak a combination of languages. He skillfully weaves English and Spanish, and frequently writes in Spanglish. The importance of language and its impact on his identity is evident in poems entitled “Español,” “Bilingue” and “Spanglish.” Known for his lively, energetic poetry readings, Bendición represents an internationally recognized poet’s life work and will serve to keep Tato Laviera’s words and the issues he wrote about alive long after his death.
“Though serious issues are addressed in the 187 collected poems, one can sense a celebratory and hopeful tone. Laviera saw language as a weapon against injustice…[He] used his poetry as protest art, which is evident in this collection of his complete works.”—EFE
“Bendición is an excellent tribute to Laviera’s writing skills and style. His poems often are in English, but sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in delightful mixtures of English and Spanish. Laviera believed that being positive has important powers, even as he stood up strongly and vocally for those in racial and economic minorities in America.”—Books, Books & More (New) Books
JESUS “TATO” LAVIERA (1950-2013) was a poet, playwright, novelist and community advocate. Born in Puerto Rico, he was raised in the Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or Loisaida. He is generally acknowledged to be the best selling Hispanic poet in the United States. He performed his works all over the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. His books include La Carreta Made a U-Turn; Enclave, winner of the American Book Award; AmeRícan; Mainstream Ethics; and Mixturao and Other Poems, and Bendición: The Complete Poetry of Tato Laviera, all published by Arte Público Press. His plays have been produced in Chicago and New York City, and have been staged at The New Federal Theater, The Public Theater, the Delcourt Theatre in Central Park, Circle in the Square, and Theatro Cuatro.