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Poem of the Week: “ode to coffee/ oda al café” by Urayoán Noel

coffee

coffee

In this episode of PoetryNow, Urayoán Noel says, “It’s almost an inside joke. You can’t be a certain kind of Caribbean poet without having a coffee poem.” Noel’s poem ode to coffee/ oda al café considers the pleasures of coffee and how those pleasures may differ between the English and Spanish languages. The poem is also a tribute. He said, “This poem is dedicated to the merengue musician Juan Luis Guerra and specifically to his song “Ojalá que llueva café,” (“Let it rain coffee”). Read his poem or hear the author read his own work in the episode of PoetryNow below.


ode to Coffee/ oda al Café

from Africa to a Caribbean hill

            de África a las lomas del Caribe

to the smiling ruin of our cities

            a la feliz ruina de ciudades

anoint the neural vessels we refill

            al matorral neural en donde vive

until your acid muse drowns our pities

            tu agria musa que ahoga soledades

return us to our tribe that grew dark beans

            devuélvenos al semillero isleño

cut through the grease of our late-night omelets

            metaboliza la grasa nocturna

and warm this empty diner by the club

            trae tu calor a nuestro desvelo

where luckless lovers stare at tiny screens

            haz que el amante no muera de sueño

and poets brew old socks into psalmlets

            tu borra es poema que embadurna

while dreaming it rains coffee from above.

            y sombría tu alegría de cielo.


More About the Author

Urayoán Noel was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, Stanford University, and New York University. As a poet, Noel is the author of Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico (2015), a Library Journal Top Fall Indie Poetry selection; Hi-Density Politics (2010), a National Book Critics Circle Small Press Highlights selection; Kool Logic/La Lógica Kool (2005), an El Nuevo Día Book of the Year; and several books of poetry in Spanish, most recently EnUncIAdOr (2014). Other works include the DVD Kool Logic Sessions (2005), a collaboration with composer Monxo López; the artist’s book/performance/website The Edgemere Luyayoan-noeletters (2011), a collaboration with artist Martha Clippinger; and the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (2014), winner of the LASA Latina/o Studies Section Book Award and recipient of an honorable mention in the MLA Prize in Latina/o and Chicana/o Literary and Cultural Studies. Noel’s ongoing and forthcoming projects include the improvisational poetry vlog WOKITOKITEKI and a bilingual edition of the poems of Pablo de Rokha.

Noel has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and CantoMundo. He has served as a contributing editor of Mandorla and NACLA Report on the Americas. Formerly an assistant professor of English at SUNY Albany, Noel currently lives in the Bronx and is an assistant professor in the departments of English and Spanish and Portuguese at NYU.

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