Rap and slam poetry

Open mic series pulls artists to North Bergen library

John Trause, a self-described “nerdy white guy” from Fort Lee, came to the North Bergen Public Library on June 27 to perform a rap song based on the 14th-century epic English poem, “The Canterbury Tales”.
Trause was one of many who took advantage of the library’s new monthly events, which will include featured readers and have an open mic portion.
The library has contracted a monthly host, Wilson Santos, a former Union City resident and writer who teaches at Montclair State University.
Santos wants to have diversity of literary genres represented for the Literature Lives and Open Mic Night, which will take place the last Wednesday of every month. He will also host a film series and discussion that will occur the second Wednesday of every month.

Featured readers

The featured readers at the June 27 event were Phoebe Farber, Francis Mateo and Kabu. The diversity amongst them was obvious as Farber had fiction, Mateo read both English as well as Spanish poems, and Kabu introduced slam poetry.
Farber, who is a fiction writer and playwright, is also an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, where she teaches a survey course on mental health. She read a short story called “The Boy in the Woods,” a tale of a boy that resents his mother for leaving him stranded in the woods. She said it is based on a news story she had heard.

“The library is in a strategic position to be able to offer cultural and intellectual programs to the public.” – Wilson Santos, host for Literature Lives and Film Screening at Library
“He felt a surge of irritation at his mother,” Farber read. “That she had been so careless about the car keys, that she had wandered away.”
Mateo is an actor, poet, and narrator who resides in New York City. “The wind blows carrying gusts of pain through every face,” read Mateo from his poem, “Concrete Man.”
Before introducing Kabu, Santos made it clear that “hip hop is poetry.” Kabu, a North Bergen resident, is an M.C., (anyone who speaks over a beat, or performs songs that could be termed “hip-hop”), poet, and hip hop artist. He was a regular poet at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, former CEO of Justice League Records, and is currently working on a new hip hop poetry album that should be out by 2013.
Kabu read excerpts from some of the songs he’s done with his group, Justice League, on the Wu-Tang Label. He also read a poem called “Pressure” that related to religion and history, which he believes are intertwined.
“Pressure had my people in chains without even keeping their name,” rapped Kabu. “Forty One shots left Diallo dead on the spot. Another victim of the school of hard knocks.”
Lynn Earley, a North Bergen resident who has run open mic shows for over 20 years, also rapped.
“If you abuse drugs and booze, get your gears in reversal,” she rapped in “Real Time.”

Meet the host

Santos has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Montclair State University, where he studied English, concentrating on American literature with an emphasis on film studies. He wrote two screenplays that were optioned. His original spoken word dance projects were released to various record labels. He is currently writing a novel and compiling 15 years of his poetry into a book. He is a former Union City resident and lived in Hudson County from 1996 to 2010.
“It’s an experiment in North Bergen,” said Santos. “I envision these events featuring a diverse make-up of people, gender, cultures, ideologies, and of course, literary styles. My hope is that the readings continue to be representative of the diversity we see within the community.”
He read some of his own poetry at the event, including “Baghdad Sunrise” about the invasion of Iraq and “I Will Not Be Pacified.”

Supporting library events

Library Director Sai Rao, Mayor Nicholas Sacco, and the Board of Trustees want the library to host community center-type events.
“We’re not just rows and rows of books. We have all these other events,” said Rao. “We here in North Bergen take it beyond books, beyond the shelves. We cater to every person who enters the building.”
Santos said that the board of trustees has been very supportive of this event and the future plans. He thinks of Sai Rao as a visionary.
“Wilson has a lot to offer; we just have to be creative about it,” said Rao.

What’s next?

The Literature Lives in July will have guest readers who perform slam poetry, spoken word, creative non-fiction, and memoir. The events will take place at 8 p.m.
For more information go to facebook.com/theartsandliterature, which is updated often and includes upcoming events. The library also has the events listed on the website: http://www.nbpl.org/Programming-and-Special-Events/ or make a visit to the library at 8411 Bergenline Ave.

Vanessa Cruz can be reached at vcruz@hudsonreporter.com


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