Juan Antonio Corretjer (March 3, 1908 – January 19, 1985), was a poet, journalist and pro-independence political activist opposing United States rule in Puerto Rico.
Corretjer (birth name: Juan Antonio Corretjer Montes) was born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, into a politically active pro-independence family. His parents were Diego Corretjer Hernández and María Brígida Montes González. His father and uncles were involved in the “Ciales Uprising” of August 13, 1898, against the United States occupation. As a lad, he would often accompany his father and uncles to political rallies. He received his primary and secondary education in his hometown. In 1920, when he was only 12 years old, Corretjer wrote his first poem “Canto a Ciales” (I sing to Ciales). In 1924, Corretjer published his first booklet of poems.
Corretjer joined the “Literary Society of Jose Gautier Benitez”, which later would be renamed the “Nationalist Youth”, while he was still in elementary school. When he was in 8th grade, he organized a student protest against the United States in his town. He was expelled from his local high school for organizing a strike to have it renamed for José de Diego. Corretjer was then sent to school in the town of Vega Baja.
In 1927, he moved to San Juan and worked as a journalist for the newspaper “La Democracia”. He later moved to the city of Ponce where he published his first two books of poetry: “Agüeybaná” (1932) and “Ulises” (1933). Throughout his life, he wrote for various newspapers and publications in Puerto Rico,Cuba and the United States.
In 1935, Corretjer travelled to Cuba and joined an anti-Batista group whose aim was to overthrow the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator. He also traveled to Haiti and to the Dominican Republic looking for international support for Puerto Rico’s independence movement.
In 1935, four Nationalists were killed by the police under the command of Colonel E. Francis Riggs. The incident became known as the Rio Piedras massacre. The following year in 1936, two members of the Cadets of the Republic, the Nationalist youth organization, Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated Colonel Riggs. They were arrested and executed, without a trial, at police headquarters in San Juan.
On April 3, 1936, a Federal Grand Jury submitted accusations against Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Luis F. Velázquez, Clemente Soto Vélez and the following members of the Cadets of the Republic: Erasmo Velázquez, Julio H. Velázquez, Rafael Ortiz Pacheco, Juan Gallardo Santiago, and Pablo Rosado Ortiz. They were charged with sedition and other violations of Title 18 of the United States Code. Title 18 of the United States Code is the criminal and penal code of the federal government of the United States. It deals with federal crimes and criminal procedure. As evidence, the prosecution referred to the creation, organization and the activities of the cadets, which the government made reference to as the “Liberting Army of Puerto Rico”. The government prosecutors stated that the military tactics which the cadets were taught was for the sole purpose of overthrowing the Government of the U.S. A jury of seven Puerto Ricans and five Americans voted 7-to-5 not guilty. However, Judge Robert A. Cooper called for a new jury, this time composed of ten Americans and two Puerto Ricans, and a guilty verdict was achieved. Corretjer was sent to “La Princesa” prison for one year in 1937, because he refused to hand over to the American authorities the Book of Acts of the Nationalists Party, as result of his political beliefs.
In 1937 a group of lawyers, including a young Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, tried in vain to defend the Nationalists, but the Boston Court of Appeals, which held appellate jurisdiction over federal matters in Puerto Rico, upheld the verdict. Albizu Campos and the other Nationalist leaders were sent to the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.
On May 21, 1948, a bill (Puerto Rico’s Gag Law) was introduced before the Puerto Rican Senate which would restrain the rights of the independence and nationalist movements in the island. The Senate, which at the time was controlled by the PPD and presided over by Luis Muñoz Marín, approved the Bill. The Bill, also known as the "Ley de la Mordaza" (gag Law), made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to talk of independence, and to fight for the liberation of the island. The Bill, which resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States, was signed into law on June 10, 1948, by the U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero and became known as “Ley 53” (Law 53). In accordance to the new law, it would be a crime to print, publish, sell, exhibit, organize, or to help anyone organize, any society, group or assembly of people whose intentions are to paralyze or destroy the insular government. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years of prison, be fined $10,000 dollars (US) or both. According to Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, the law was repressive and was in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech. He pointed out that the law as such was a violation of the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico.
On October 30, 1950, the Nationalists staged uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naranjito, Arecibo, Utuado (Utuado Uprising), San Juan (San Juan Nationalist revolt), and Jayuya (Jayuya Uprising).
Known as the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s, the revolts were a widespread call for independence by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, against United States Government rule over Puerto Rico. It specifically repudiated the so-called “Free Associated State” (Estado Libre Asociado) designation of Puerto Rico - a designation widely recognized as a colonial farce.
The revolts failed because of the overwhelming force used by the U.S. military, the U.S. National Guard, the FBI, the CIA, and the Puerto Rican Insular Police - all of whom were aligned against the Nationalists. This force included the machine-gunning of Nationalists all over the island, and the aerial bombing of the town of Jayuya. Hundreds of cadets and Nationalists, among them Corretjer,were arrested by mid-November 1950, and the party was never the same.
The themes and inspiration for his poems and essays were devoted to his defense of his native land. Corretjer’s epic poem “Alabanza en la Torre de Ciales” (Praise in the tower of Ciales) (1953), is considered one of the representative works of the “neocriollismo" movement and has had a strong influence on many later poe In Corretjer’s poetry the Taino is no longer an idealized figure but allegory of revolutionary legacy. In the prologue of “Yerba bruja”, Corretjer states it was not his intent to “dig up a mummy” but to bring to light “the splendor of the indigenous imagination that lives on in our own.”
His poetry spans several decades and transcended any particular literary movement. The Puerto Rican Athenaeum awarded him the honorary title of Puerto Rico National Poet.
A poet who’s impact on me is beyond words
“Mrs. López refuses to pay rent,
and we want her out,”
the landlord’s lawyer said,
tugging at his law school ring.
The judge called for an interpreter,
but all the interpreters were gone,
trafficking in Spanish
at the criminal session
on the second floor.
A volunteer stood up in the gallery.
Mrs. López showed the interpreter
a poker hand of snapshots,
the rat curled in a glue trap
next to the refrigerator,
the water frozen in the toilet,
a door without a doorknob
(No rent for this. I know the law
and I want to speak,
she whispered to the interpreter).
“Tell her she has to pay
and she has ten days to get out,”
the judge commanded, rose
so the rest of the courtroom rose
and left the bench. Suddenly
the courtroom clattered
with the end of business:
the clerk of the court
gathered her files
and the bailiff went to lunch.
Mrs. López stood before the bench,
still holding up her fan of snapshots
like an offering this ulcerated god
refused to taste,
while the interpreter
felt the burning
bubble in his throat
as he slowly turned to face her.
The poet describes his new book about the death of his father and the birth of his son as having a blues sensibility. “There are moments of humor even in the sorrow,” he says.
One of my favorite poets is back
Want to compete from your own home for a chance to be on a team at the National Poetry Slam this summer? Exciting stuff happening over at Fuck Yeah Poetry Slam!Share.
Alright Folks sign ups are open!
to sign up e-mail email@example.com with the subject POETRY SLAM SIGN UP (YOUR NAME).
We will then reply to you with instructions on how to submit your video though file sharing! You still have a few days to get your video filmed and ready. Our deadline for receiving your video files will be March 4th for the 1st competition.
Keep in mind:
Videos must be under 4 minutes. Preferred file format is MPEG4. If you send us a file in format that isn’t able to be uploaded you won’t be able to compete.
Only one submission per poet.
The poet must perform work that they have created.
All videos will be aired on this youtube channel (youtube.com/teamwonderdave). We will also be posting all of the videos on this blog.
The video must not currently appear on another youtube channel. You may take down an existing video and submit the footage. Different videos of the submitted poem appearing on youtube are acceptable. You will receive a video release form after you sign up.
Previously published poetry is fine.
There will be at least six preliminary online video competitions. You will be randomly sorted into one of these six groups. The winning poets from those six competitions will submit a second video for a final competition in order to select the team.
In order to compete you must be at least 18 years of age by August 5th 2014.
You must be able to get to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland CA by 8AM on August 5th and stay through the end of the tournament on August 9th. While we will try and help the team fundraise we cannot guarantee any cost of travel or hotel will be covered. If selected for the team you must be a registered PSi member (you can become one now by following this link)
Thanks so much for supporting this endeavor. National Poetry Slam here we come!
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Yes, cigarettes are metaphors for sex or solitude itself;
whatever is live and deep and gone. We stood
in the express lane with Parliaments, our last dollars
crumpled in my palm. I have always been
a left-handed man, meaning a dumb passion crashes
through my brain, requesting everything I have and have not.
This hand is what I have left. I’m talking about control
or lacking it. We should have bought bread,
but I bought smoke. Now, you have fallen asleep,
And I am lifting the last of a solitary butt to my lips.
In photos Picasso’s left dons a cigarette
And it is hopeful. He made women solemn and infinite,
though fractured careening from his stroke. Hopeful stroke.
I am a left-handed man. These fingers have no logic
in their need, and desire is a curse. The stroke. Realizing
he couldn’t exact their beauty, did he turn his back,
crack a mirror, paint the lines their reflections cast?
Who knows how art is born. You have abandoned me
for sleep and this is what I am left: a room
the color of your sleep. In this darkness I imagine
his Sleeping Woman With Shutters. I saw it in a book:
the sad irregular head lowered on her arm, the left hand
touching a blue circular breast. Your left hand touches
my chest and it is perhaps only coincidence,
that American word for fate. Fate. I have tied fate
to everything, to your body and it is a blessing. Even now,
when you are still as a woman posing for a painting.
The painter strokes that stillness into a canvas,
hopes his hand can give it breath. I am only as blessed
as a man bound to his desire; to lines that cannot deliver
or mimic life. I am only as hopeless; closing these fingers
around your wrist as it sleeps upon my chest.
We believe we are giving ourselves away,
And so it feels good,
Our bodies swimming together
In afternoon light, the music
That enters our window as far
From the voices that made it
As our minds are from reasons.
There are whole doctrines on loving.
A science. I would like to know everything
About convincing love to give me
What it does not possess to give. And then
I would like to know how to live with nothing.
Not memory. Nor the taste of the words
I have willed you whisper into my mouth.
-Tracy K. Smith
Grape Robitussen tastes like melted lollipop.
It sits by my bed, heroin melting in a spoon.
I want it. I want the grape. I want to sleep.
Already in school they have had us read books
where the junkie goes cold turkey, shakes and shivers
on a cot. I am an opium-eater
who swigs from the bottle, falls into swollen sleep.
I ride the HORSE. I have a MONKEY on my back.
Already I am the kind of child who should not
be allowed to read so much or late at night.
But now I am coughing like the consumptives
in my books, match-girls black from chimney dust,
and if I cought I cannot sleep; if I don’t sleep
I cannot dream of all I’m reading: bony fingers
that snap off and turn to candy, children who slip
down the bathtub drain, who are frozen in place forever.
If you wonder why
I’m not laughing, go ask
Brian, the sixth-grade cutup
the one with the most dirty jokes
who requested the tribal African song
Tina Singu each music class, black
vinyl spinning while Brian made
faces, knocked his knees together
like eggs. If you are curious about
me, just ask the boy who riddled
the whole playground or me
& my friends walking
home: What do you get
when you cross a black person
with a Smurf? I am sure today
he would answer you, would explain
now that he meant No offense just
like he did then above the crowd
of girls leaning closer or the boys
trying to get his timing down,
just as after the punchline
he always said You know I don’t
mean you. It’s ok. And when
you see that boy whose last name
I don’t seem to remember, be sure
to tell him that this here Smigger
could care less yet could never care
more, that my blue
& brown body is more
than willing to inform
him offense is one hostage
I have never taken.
Jovan Mays - “Nana’s Cages”
"As a child, she would love to observe the flight patterns of turkey vultures. She loved it when their dead feathers frayed through the southern sky, ‘cause where she was from, they were the only things breaking the color line."
Jovan Mays recently became the first ever Poet Laureate of Aurora, CO. This beautiful performance is from the 2013 Great Plains Poetry Pile-Up.
What children can solve the equation of loveliness
more quickly than these, the abundancies of good?
How like a gifty moon that crosses its legs upon my porch
is the laughter of these children at their father-clown!
How unguent and leafy is their thought!
I will give you whatever blackness you require;
my flesh will be a breakfast for your need,
for you will bring from your loins a race
of saints: dark when they cleave the devil’s soul.
I sit crotch high
Scenting the heavy fat
Of my ancestry,
Hearing stories of the Lord
And ditch niggers
Both coming in from the South.
The heavy oak of table legs
Doubled in pairs
By oak legs of Mama’s sisters,
As I hide in a private jungle
Viewing the underside
Of table and kin.
Subjects of sin are whispered,
But my ears are large
Under the shroud of legs.
Brother, never mentioned without
His hooked nose,
Refuses an invitation to tea.
This time I’ll count wooden legs,
And try not to sneeze away
Five reasons Uncle Roman’s son died.
A spider chooses the wrong leg,
And I prepare for him a burial
As Brother’s wife is inspected—blood will tell.
A dozen times in one afternoon
They relive the deaths
Of favorite sisters, Fannie and Jessie.
Fannie looked like Mama.
Soda pop and peckerwoods
Come in all flavors, some too sweet.
Kidney stew and dumplings mingle
With the smell of musk and oak.
While Claudia, head haunch,
Takes her seat. Don’t ask her twice;
The biggest sister of them all,
And Mama leads the yes chorus.
-Colleen J. McElroy
After the Lord
laid the world out,
kissed it full with water,
angels made the first life,
coming on the young women
at night singing, rushing
breezes stirring across naked
skin. Giant men were born who
knew all that God knew, becoming
gods themselves, the populated
myths of Greece and Rome. It was
too much. God killed them all
in surging oceans. Their memories—
Ovid’s dreams. Now in a
single hundred years, the rape,
of night breezes has seeded
the planet with industry,
the thunder the giants made
when they leaped for stars.
God’s anger is around us,
seething, swollen with hot breath—
yellow eyes on our disobedience
like bloody fires in the night,
or the eyes of the cats.
-Afaa M. Weaver
PHILLIS WHEATLEY, THE PHILOSOPHER POET
The statue is part of the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue, a series of three statues of Bostonian women by Meredith Bergmann: Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone.
Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784), an eighteenth-century African-American woman who was a slave and a poet, was the first black American to be published. She is also credited with originating the genres of African-American poetry and African-American women’s literature.
In this Lake Okeechobee land
of hibiscus, oranges and flamingos,
grass could deceive
it was sugarcane.
New like a city boy in
deep woods, I stood inside
the back of the bus, watching
empty seats in front
marked WHITES ONLY.
My friend sat, as any man sits
in a vacant public seat,
and the sun was attacked.
Horns grew in faces.
And the lady squirmed.
She yelled her person’s purity
is blotted: a Black
violates her side.
Passions braked the bus.
The driver stood correctly,
legally, holding unholstered gun
coolly, like a Bible
to convert a Black.
‘I’m British’, my friend said.
But under steel of eyes
there was a cooler confidence,
‘Niggers are jes niggers.’
We stepped down between
fields of nodding sugarcane.
Pop-eyed, at the back of the bus,
with sheep caged faces,
the black Americans watched us go
across the country road.
In the free sunlight,
satisfying the other tribe,
we walked into the little
segregated town of Belleglade, Florida.