An Evening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

 

By Allison Yeh

41-atjmbo1

Last Friday at 10 o’clock in the evening, I joined my Spanish class in line outside the Nuyorican Poet’s Café on East 3rd between Avenue B and Avenue C. We huddled outside in the cold speaking a mix of English and elementary Spanish. Our teacher, in a black fur coat and boots, whipped a takeout box of French fries from her purse. “No tuvo tiempo para comer, queraís, alguién?” She said as she circled the box under our noses to entice us. I took one since I didn’t have time to eat either.

Inside the café, we were squished into a small box-like space, every inch taken up by a person in a puffy winter coat. It was uncomfortable, yet strangely comforting, knowing so many people had come together to watch the power of words be delivered. Our class split up, weaving our way through bodies towards the tiny stage. I stood on my tip toes, ready for the performance to begin.

The event we were attending was a poetry slam. However, to start the evening, a more well-known poet, Carlos Andrés Gómez, author of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood  came on stage to warm up the crowd with two poems. Gomez’s stage presence and delivery gave me the same chills I get when I hear a singer on the the Voice belting their lungs out (in all the best ways). His second poem, “What’s Genocide” hushed the audience like a graveyard. Once he finished, the crowd hollered, applauded and rushed to get in line for an autographed book.

shane

The poetry slam itself was also inspiring. Three contestants each spoke from their own diverse backgrounds. One spoke of her experience as a black woman in a small town in North Carolina. One young man spoke of his Jewish heritage and his abhorrence of Hebrew school. The last participant (and ultimate winner of the slam) was of Dominican descent and spoke about his working as a public school teacher in Manhattan. The three performers each shared three poems that even though ranged in content, could be connected through the potency of their verbal communication. The poems were not only lyrical, but also advocated for something beyond the brick walls of the space.

To close the night, Whitney Greenaway (an award winning slam poet) recited a poem about how to be a lady, inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl. Earlier in the night she also performed this.

While the event ended at 2am, probably the longest and latest Spanish class I have ever attended, I left with a new sense of community, a sense of power of words, and a want to look up more slam poetry on Youtube.

 

Allison is a Sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor of Barnard Bite.

 

pictureS:

http://www.nuyorican.org/

 

http://www.nuyorican.org/

Books to Read in the Last Week of Break

By Allison Yeh

When you are Traveling

Read this:

1

Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller is perfect for traveling as 1) It can easily be found in an airport kiosk, and 2) the novel moves so fast you will never want to put it down!

When You are at Home with the Whole Family

Read this:

2

If you are starting to think your family is driving you crazy, pick up The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls then reassess the situation.

When All You Can Think About Is Food

Read this:

3

Written with sensual details that will most definitely leave you salivating, Muriel Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody explores the world of a famous food critic who is searching for the best meal before he dies.

When You Don’t Have Much Time but Want to Still Read

Read This:

4

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore is a compilation of short stories that incorporate both humor and emotional acuity. As each story touches on a different topic, this book is perfect if you have to keep picking it up and putting it down.

When You Just Aren’t In The Mood

Read This:

5.jpg

Geoff Dyer in his book of personal essays, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, satirizes his helplessness in various situations to keep you laughing. And trust me, you will laugh.

Allison Yeh is a Sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.

Breathe, Scream, Ice Cream: Navigating Stress During Finals

Let’s be honest—your midterms have overstayed their welcome, your fuse is running short, and no matter how much food you ate over Thanksgiving, you still can’t help but think about your schedule, your homework, and most of all, your finals. My first word of advice, however, is not to stress. (I know, it’s much easier said than done.) But hopefully these tips will help you realize that know that it’s not only okay to be stressed, but also to let yourself mitigate that stress every once in a while.  

Read More »

An Open Letter to the Man-Bun Gone Wrong

By Allison Yeh

Dear Semi-Man-Bunner,

To man-bun or not to man-bun – that is the question you asked when in the Barbour shop on that boring Monday night. You can’t settle for classic short hair because you wear slim pants and the occasional dress jacket. But your skater inspired sneakers hamper your worthiness of shoulder length hair that you can tie back while in a deep philosophical conversation. In the Barbour shop you expressed your need to have both.

Read More »

Dear Mean Girl Next Door

maxresdefault.jpgBy Allison Yeh

              I just wanted to apologize for the abandoned beehive I may have purposefully left on your bedroom dresser. I know I shouldn’t fight fire with fire, and that maybe I should have handled the green hair dye you “let slip” into my shampoo with more poise and maturity; however, I’m not the pushover you want me to be. And after the whole football team referred to me as Kale-head Kimmy for two months, I couldn’t help but crave revenge. Ever since I started wearing Birkenstocks and clearance rack Free People, and you started strutting in Jack Rodgers and new arrivals from Lily Pulitzer, our friendship had changed. I’m sorry you now live with the misconceived notion that side-glaring and eye-rolling make you cool and fabulous. I’m sorry you forgot the definition of “nice.” Remember the time I tripped over that Barbie doll you abandoned on the sidewalk? You reached out your hand to meet mine, while asking how I felt, and would I like a RocketPop? I miss your cheek-to-cheek smile. You actually look good when you show concern.

              I’m sorry you have no one to vent to, and therefore use your built up frustration to torture my life instead. I’m sorry about Craig. I’m sorry he cheated on you, and that I saw him at the concert two months ago, his tongue down some other girl’s throat, and didn’t say anything. I’m sorry everyone at school dismisses you now after you desperately spread that implausible rumor about Craig’s “illicit hysterectomy.” But I guess that’s what you deserve after skipping Mr. Cutler’s bio class all of freshman year to go smoke weed with Craig’s best friend under the sycamore tree in the parking lot.

              I’m sorry I live next door, and that my “disgusting” and “homeless” face at the bus stop is unavoidable. I’m sorry our moms go to book club together, and drag us to brunch on Sundays. I don’t like eating fresh croissants next to a judgmental anorexic any more than you don’t like sitting next to a slob who can’t chew with her mouth closed. Remember when we ate Chinese takeout without utensils on your porch because we both left our keys inside? Then we played “Would You Rather?” until my mom finally rescued us from the mosquitoes attacking our fingers laden in sweet and sour sauce. I miss the girl next door who didn’t care about sticky fingers, who didn’t obsessively tweeze her eyebrows or wear Gucci sunglasses indoors. I enjoyed the girl who would come watch Full House marathons on the weekends while we painted each other’s nails a concoction of different reds and pinks. I miss the girl who knocked on my door in tears after her dad lost his temper and punched a hole through the living room wall. I miss bragging to my classmates that Rebecca Heller was my bestest friend around the world three times, to the moon, then back again.

              I am sorry you have become so cruel over time. And I’m sorry I couldn’t suppress my need to retaliate against your insecure pranks. I’m sorry you’re in the hospital now, suffering head to toe in hives and swelling. I’m sorry I wasn’t a good enough friend to know you were allergic to bee stings.

Allison Yeh is a Sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.

Before You Didn’t, Now Junot

By Allison Yeh  

Junot Diaz Hosts Best American Short Stories

junot-diaz

Image courtesy of Google Images

On Tuesday October 4th, Symphony Space held an event called Selected Shorts: The Best American Short Stories 2016. The host for the evening, Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer prize winning novelist for the book The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar War, selected a handful of his personal favorite short stories regarding the theme of “American.” While Diaz, as a writing professor at MIT, did not read any of his own stories, he noted his love as well as the need for appreciating the works of fellow writers, some of whom he referred to as Gods.  

Before presenting each performer (actors and actresses, including Renee Elise Goldsberry from Hamilton and Elizabeth Rodriguez of Orange is the New Black), Diaz gave his own sentiments on why he selected the story. When introducing Bridge by Daniel J. O’Malley, he described his experience reading it as “the kind of story you find sitting at the edge of your bathtub not wanting to move.” As a fan of Junot Diaz, I was sad he took a backseat for most of the event, but his little personal tidbits kept me satisfied.  

As the night went on each story took on a unique perspective of living in or viewing America. They tackled themes regarding immigration, language, and expectations. One story titled The Great Silence by Ted Chiang and performed by Elizabeth Rodriguez was told from the perspective of an endangered parrot, commenting on the human intelligence in comparison to extraterrestrial intelligence. Another story, Treasure State by Smith Henderson and performed by Michael Shannon, was about grave robbers living in Montana because Montana, the word, sounded beautiful to them. While the stories were very unique in their own way, it was fun to find the common American thread in each of them, showing how interpretation of America is vastly different among different people.

The event ended with Junot Diaz cracking witty remarks on how it was past the audience’s bedtime (it being 10pm and the majority of the audience being over 55). However I too, at 19, was ready for sleep after such a night full of well-told and well-written stories.

Allison Yeh is a sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.