| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Pedro Pietri has lived
most of his life in New York City. He writes poetry and plays, some
of which have been presented in off-Broadway theaters. Illusions of a
Revolving Door, a collection of his plays in English, was published in Puerto
Rico in 1992, the first time a Nuyorican writer published his work in English
on the island.
texts illustrate the literature of protest and denunciation that characterizes
the work of Nuyorican writers, who address their literature to Puerto Rican
readers in order to raise consciousness of social and political oppression
within American society. Nuyorican poets began to read at the Nuyorican Poet’s
Cafe, at 505 East Sixth Street in New York City, where they met with other
writers, artists, and community people. Their “poetic” language is anti-lyrical
and harsh; it is the street language of blacks and Puerto Ricans in El Barrio. Such
a stylistic choice implies a resistance to Americanization, and an expression
of dignity and pride in the puertorriqueño’s heritage.
Puerto Rican Obituary, a key text for Nuyorican poets, Pietri creates a mock
epic of the Puerto Rican community in the United States. Through humor,
sarcasm, and an irreverent irony, the poet presents the American Dream—which
motivated many Puerto Ricans to emigrate to this country—not as a dream but as
a nightmare and, ultimately, as death. The puertorriqueños find themselves shut
out of America’s economic opportunities and lifestyle, and realize that they
are unemployed, living on welfare, bitter, degraded. Pietri’s image of a
collective death is symbolic, denouncing the death of the Puerto Ricans’
dignity as a people and individually. Yet Pietri is not altogether pessimistic,
for the poem proposes a utopian symbolic space of Puerto Rican identity.
Traffic Violations, Pietri moves away from the specificity of the social
conditions of Puerto Ricans in New York, and expresses a broader poetic vision
of life as absurd. As his title indicates, his poetry reaffirms the need to
break away from norms, the healthy rupturing of expectations, of logic, and of
civilization. By inverting many American idiomatic expressions and clichés, he
surprises and moves the reader. This book presents the figure of the poet as a
self-willed outcast, who drinks and uses drugs in order to avoid falling into
any mechanization of the self. It is a surrealist work.
representative of the literature of protest in Nuyorican culture, Pedro
Pietri’s work is a strong denunciation of the American system and of Western
capitalism. To struggle against these forces, Pietri’s poetry invites the
puertorriqueños to acquire a sense of dignity and pride in their heritage, and
to avoid complete cultural assimilation.
Frances R. Aparicio|
University of Illinois at Chicago
In the Heath Anthology
Puerto Rican Obituary
Lost in the Museum of Natural History/Perdido en el Museo de Historia Natural
The Masses Are Asses
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Pedro's poem provided by Tribes Magazine.
There Was Never No Tomorrow, Nuyorican Pedro Pietri In His Own Words
Edna Acosta Belen, "The Literature of the Puerto Rican National Minority in the United States," 5:12 The Bilingual Review (Jan.-August 1978): 107-116
Arnaldo Cruz, "Teaching Puerto Rican Authors: Modernization and Identity in Nuyorican Literature," ADE Journal published by The Modern Language Association, December, 1988
William Luis, Dance between Two Cultures: Latino Carribean Literature Written in the U.S., 1997
Marc Zimmerman, U.S. Latino Literature: An Essay and Annotated Bibliography, 1992