The Invocation by Bob Holman sets the tone, theme, purpose and intention of the Nuyorican poets in the anthology ALOUD. The poetry is written and performed off the page, not for the strict literary requirements of the page, but poetry written for performance, poetry that will create its own literary forms without apology. Nuyorican Poets thrive in a live audience and the audience is not for the illusive literary publishing world or literary reviewers or University scholars, but poetry is written and performed for poets, artists, working folks - people in the neighborhood. Holman challenges the reader to “hear” the book with the eyes and that –“these poems know poetry is a contact sport.” This is poetry for the whole body, the ear, the eye, the mouth, heart and soul of the poet and the audience member. And, this poetry is inclusive, a multi-cultural and a multi-lingual community of emerging poets and established poets, young poets and veteran poets. It is poetry that is alive off the page, poetry that is celebratory and fun…ALOUD and proud.
Miguel Algarin’s Introduction further illuminates: “Poetry is not finding its way, it has found its way, back into everyday life.” Algarin speaks to the vitality of the word and the vital need of poetry in people’s lives. That poetry is a powerful weapon or even medicine when one has to face or to deal with the everyday oppressive conditions in the work place and other institutions. In the Nuyorcian Café all are welcomed to testify and to bear witness about what is going down in the neighborhoods. Algarin speaks to the resurrection of poetry. This poetry with a purpose, direction similar to Audre Lorde’s essay where poetry is definitely not a luxury, but has responsibility and has certain political power and movement.
Algarin mentions poetry delivers a way to promote tolerance and understanding between people. “The aim is to dissolve the social, cultural, and political boundaries that generalize the human experience and make it meaningless.” Poetry is taken to new heights and deeper depths, where there are new conversations and dialogue between diverse poets and communities. “These poems now create new metaphors that yield new patterns of trust, creating intercultural links among the many ethnic groups that are not characterized by the simplistic term black/white dialogue.” Poetry becomes a unifying force, expansive force with many different poets sharing the stage coming from diverse backgrounds. There is learning to be had from the community, through a poet's voice - learning you may never get in a text book, a history book. Poetry is a force to breakdown stereotypes and misunderstanding and it’s the poet’s responsibility to build solidarity and unity between diverse communities. Through poetry and art the poet discovers shared struggles amongst peers, neighbors, as well as amongst the outcasts and the outlaws of society. There is also a celebratory expression in these shared experiences even when one is mourning the loss of a beloved. Algarin urges this poetry of the nineties to be used as a tool, an outlet, a weapon, this poetry is being about “responsible for giving a direction, for illuminating a path” for those who are struggling, facing hardships because of racism, sexism, oppression or unemployment or employment in dead-in jobs. This poetry of the nineties has a clear intention: “Speak about how people hurt, yet at the same time give them a directive, a sense of future release.” In ALOUD poetry becomes encompassing, comprehensive and purposeful, inclusive for all. Although most of the poets write in free verse and the poetry is performed, Nuyorcian poetry embodies a breadth of form, theme and subject where I don’t think one could identify a distinctive poetic style.