Willie Perdomo

It...seems to me, and I think maybe this is more personal than anything else, that we tend to use poetry to preserve our sense of dream, our dream space, even. There are some spaces that should be sacred. Even if we negotiate some sort of oppression, we still have to preserve some of that space so that we can get in touch with our silences, and be able to process those silences.
 
 

pen open book award

international latino book award 

national book critics circle finalist 

 
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How did we do without this book for so long? Willie Perdomo excavates the history and colors of son and salsa down to the bones of slavery and into the vivid streets of Nuyorican America. This descarga of a book, this Bembé of poetry will set up in the middle of your palms, mold your head into a conga polyrhythm and never miss a beat. Best pay attention, ya’ll.
— Pulitzer Prize winner Tyehimba Jess
Reading The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is like walking into a Bembé, 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. A beautiful, accomplished book.
— Chris Abani
Winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award, Perdomo portrays percussionist Shorty Bon Bon in charged, edgy poems that have all the shimmer and reverberance of a dance hall, moving from his live studio recordings with a 1970s descarga band, to the smoky passion between him and a singer named Rose, and beyond.
Library Journal

Award-winning poet and children’s book author Willie Perdomo is the author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (Penguin Poets, 2014), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Milton Kessler Poetry Award; winner of the International Latino Book Award, and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominee. He is also the author of Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax, 2004), winner of the PEN/Beyond Margins Awards and Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (Norton, 1996), a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. Perdomo is a Pushcart nominee, two-time New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellow and a former Woolrich Fellow in Creative Writing at Columbia University. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, Bomb Magazine, and African Voices.

Perdomo's children's books include Clemente! (Henry Holt & Co., 2010), winner of the 2011 Amerícas Award for children’s and young adult literature; Visiting Langston (Henry Holt & Co., 2002),  and Postcards of El Barrio (Isla Negra Editores, 2002).

Born and raised in New York City, the city, its people, and its rich, vibrant cultures deeply inform Perdomo’s work, as well the lineage of writers who’ve helped form his aesthetic vision. In an interview with Words without Borders, Perdomo was asked about iconic literary places in New York City that are meaningful to him: “ Go to the corner where Claude Brown used to scrap & fisticuff daily; to the rooftop where Piri Thomas used to scream his poems to the world; to the bench where Julia De Burgos collapsed from heartbreak; to the neighborhood where Lorca saw a Puerto Rican woman so beautiful that he wrote his mother, convinced that they were the most beautiful in the world; where Jack Agueros wrote his sonnets; where Pedro Pietri ignited a revolution; where Henry Dumas was tragically shot; where Toni Cade Bambara told our usable truths; where Lou Reed waited for his connection; where Carlito Brigante weighed the angles; the bushes where Miguel Pinero slept; the subway line where Audre Lorde wrote her poems; the SEEK program where Adrienne Rich used to teach in the 1970s . . . "

Perdomo is currently a member of the VONA/Voices faculty and an English Instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy. He divides his time between New Hampshire and New York City.

 

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