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This review is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

WORDS IN YOUR FACE CRISTIN O’KEEFE APTOWICZ, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull Press) £12.99

Back in 1994, I was living in New York City and working as a temporary secretary at a non-profit organisation called The Skin Cancer Foundation. The job didn’t ‘work out’, like they say, and I was ‘let go’. My friend Tasha was working at the Nuyorican Poets Café, a performance space I had gone to in the past to check out poetry slams, so I asked her if she knew whether the Nuyorican was looking to hire someone on a part-time basis.

Coincidentally, the Nuyorican was hiring – its founder and director Miguel Algarín, a Puerto Rican-American poet/professor, was looking around for a Boy Friday. I made an appointment to meet him, and within thirty minutes of my informal interview I had the job. Miguel proved to be a larger- than-life raconteur whose ebullience and arrogance I found intoxicating, particularly given his mayoral standing among the East Village community east of Avenue A.

The job lasted about six months or so. My duties included editing one of Miguel’s poetry manuscripts, going to any number of lunches to meet various movers-and-shakers for projects that never got off the ground, stocking beer, filling out occasional grant applications for monies we never got, and the like. The real joy of the job proved to be my gaining what was essentially an all-access pass to all the events at the Nuyorican, including the Friday Night Poetry Slams. The slams were great social occasions. A truly multi-cultural, mostly young and ...


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