The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon
2014 National Book Critics Circle Award (Poetry) finalist
Through songs of alternate takes and tempos and a melody crackling with vitality and dynamism, in language symphonic and colloquial, we follow the percussionist of a 70’s descarga band, Shorty Bon Bon, on a re-imagined journey of self-discovery. In this compelling third book, award winning poet Willie Perdomo rebuilds the landscape of Shorty’s life from his apprenticeship, love, a move to the diaspora, and ultimately, his death. Replete with classical tropes, touches of noir (including a femme fatale) and a style all-Perdomo, we accompany Shorty Bon Bon through a surreal gig that, it turns out, is his own requiem.
“Reading The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is like walking into a Bembe, just at the moment when the gods have descended, the moment between the silence of awe and the still shrill cry of the singers. And Perdomo’s skill and lyrical voice is like a wet finger drawn slowly, agonizingly over the taut skin of a drum face, until the very last moment when it explodes into beat. To quote a line from the book: there’s no use muffling flaw or fault line. The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon allows all of us to re-imagine the best and worst moments of our own lives. A beautiful, accomplished book.”
— Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas and The Virgin of Flames.
2004 PEN Beyond Margins Award
“Whether we’re talking Puerto Rico or the US, the Poetry Society of America or the corner of 123rd Street and Lexington Avenue, there is no poet alive who can match the lyrical intelligence, ferocious wit and searching humanity of Willie Perdomo. Perdomo is the hurricane we all write home about.”
— Junot Díaz, author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Smoking Lovely, Willie Perdomo’s second volume of poetry, confirms his hard won place in American letters. Addiction, poverty, class and racial identity, love and recovery are examined with a devastating and streetwise voice, marked with irrefutable artistic integrity and craftsmanship. These poems sing, howl, and heal with a sad and searing wisdom akin to genius. Smoking Lovely is destined to become not just one of the best books of the year but of the decade.”
— Sapphire, author of Push and Black Wings & Blind Angels
“Willie Perdomo is an electric poet. His poems crackle with energy. The poet knows his beloved barrio, what to celebrate and what to condemn. He also has the courage to confront his own demons. There is raw pain in this voice, and much more: humor, irony, music, intelligence.”
— Martin Espada, author of City of Coughing and Dead Radiators and Alabanza
“Smoking Lovely sings to both the eyes and ears, placing oral and visual patterns in dramatic tension with one another. And the pleasure offered by this vibrant collection is precisely the pleasure of watching and hearing the polyphonic performance in vibrant poetic terms. “
— American Book Review
Where a Nickel Costs a Dime
Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award finalist
Where a Nickel Costs a Dime captures the hip-hop rhythms and in-your-face intensity of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a downtown Manhattan club where the hottest young poets are finding their fame.
Willie Perdomo’s poems, in the tradition of Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, and Ntozake Shange, meet at the intersection of the street and the academy.
The world in these piercing and heartbreaking poems is Spanish Harlem, “where night turns to day without sleep,” where “Puerto Rico stays on our minds when the fresh breeze of cafe con leche y pan con mantequilla comes through half-opened windows and under our doors,” where “babies fall asleep to the bark of a German shepherd,” where “Independence Day is celebrated everyday,” where “the police come into your house without knocking. They throw us off rooftops and say we slipped. They shoot my father and say he was crazy. They put a bullet in my head and say they found me that way.”
The poems in this debut collection meet at the intersection of the street and the academy. Willie Perdomo is a cutting-edge bard who speaks to the soul of his generation.
“Langston Hughes has been reincarnated and lives in Spanish Harlem. His name is Willie Perdomo. Where a Nickel Costs a Dime is a priceless, precious package of poetry.”
— Claude Brown, Manchild in the Promised Land
“As you will see, Willie Perdomo is a new and important voice a Djali (Griot), and here he is right on the gig. Like they say, Djeli, Djeli, Djeli Ya (gettin’ down) and rising up!”
— Amiri Baraka
Winner of the 2011 Amerícas Award for children’s and young adult literature
Coretta Scott Honor, 2002