Diasporican Spoken-Word Poets

I. “Accents”- Denise Frohman

DENICE FROHMAN is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. She is a CantoMundo Fellow, former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion and Leeway Transformation Award recipient. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of ColorWomen of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, and has garnered over 10 million views online.

“Accents”

my mom holds her accent like a shotgun, with two good hands. her tongue, all brass knuckle slipping in between her lips her hips, all laughter and wind clap. she speaks a sanchocho of spanish and english, pushing up and against one another, in rapid fire there is no telling my mama to be “quiet,” she don’t know “quiet.” her voice is one size better fit all and you best not tell her to hush, she waited too many years for her voice to arrive to be told it needed housekeeping. English sits in her mouth remixed so “strawberry” becomes “eh-strawbeddy” and “cookie” becomes “eh-cookie” and kitchen, key chain, and chicken all sound the same. my mama doesn’t say “yes” she says, “ah ha” and suddenly the sky in her mouth becomes Hector Lavoe song. her tongue can’t lay itself down flat enough for the English language, it got too much hip too much bone too much conga too much cuatro to two-step got too many piano keys in between her teeth, it got too much clave too much hand clap got too much salsa to sit still it be an anxious child wanting to make Play-Doh out of concrete English be too neat for her kind of wonderful. her words spill in conversation between women whose hands are all they got sometimes our hands are all we got and accents remind us that we are still bomba, still plena say “wepa” and a stranger becomes your hermano, say “dale” and a crowd becomes a family reunion. my mama’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coqui’s of el campo so even though her lips can barely stretch themselves around english, her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.

 

II. “Roots and Recipes of Love”- Mayda Del Valle

“As the child of Puerto Rican migrants who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, my work originates in the embodiment of what I consider to be a hybrid identity and experience. It is part Spanish and English, part hip-hop and salsa, part Nas and Sonia Sanchez, part Shakespeare and John Leguizamo. It is inherited history as well as traditions remixed and invented.

I create autobiographical narratives that utilize spoken-word poetry and music, intended for live performance. Rooted in the aesthetics of hip-hop and the urban Latino experience, my work explores themes of healing, transformation and the recovery of ancestral memory in the modern-day diaspora.” -Mayda del Valle

 

“Roots and Recipes of Love”

mami is making mambo mami is making

Mambo she putting Kings to shame she got

more flavor in her food than in the Gran

Combo horn section there is more of a

get down groove in my mother’s kitchen

than in a friday night at Copa she puts Tito

Puente to shame with her sabor and

her cocina in the domain of Del Valle

kitchen my mother is the dictator I

refer to it as Carmen’s culinary

queendom she becomes a cuisine

conquistadora wielding a freshly

sharpened knife like a sword above her

head the towel becomes a whip with which

she wipes every trace of spillage the

bottom of her adobo is a shield against

any possibility of blandness and Goya

doesn’t stand a chance here everything

is fresh no prepackaged junk she is the

menu mercenary the soldier of soul food

the culinary commands and you better

back the hell up cuz mami is making mambo

mama she hangs the hats of Iron Chefs

off the windowsill like roast duck

trophies and laughs at the sight of any

edible food item no meats in the freezer

spam and corned beef in a can or

transformed to virtual filet mignon rice

cooks itself instantly at her command

and beans jump into bubbling pot

shrieking Emeril and Julia Child’s mere

hamburger flippers in her presence

because mami is making

mambo it was there in my mother’s

kitchen that I learned more than just

how to cook it’s where I learned the

essence of rhythm empower I learned to

dance in that kitchen shiny aluminum

rice pot clanging like cowbells with

metal spoons cast iron frying pans a

wooden mortar and pestle provided the

percussion section with the radio

humming softly in the background the

fall of her steel blade on a wooden

cutting board became the clave the

hissing of the pressure cooker

harmonized the sizzling of sofrito and

bubbling beans softening and covered

pots and her hands move faster than

Mongo and congas during a riff making

mofongo con caldo she would take me

by the hands and spin me into the

oblivion of music leaving me to dance in

the center of the kitchen my senses

overloading with the sense of common

cilantro and the sounds of Hector Lavoe

El Gran combo and Tito Puente and

the only Puerto Rican radio station in

Chicago she would return to singing and

doing the shuffle from sink to stove

stove to sink tasting and testing her

masterpieces answering questions like

mami how do you make arroz con gandules?

mami how do you dance merengue? because

mami is making Mambo the way to a man’s

heart is through his stomach and your

hips so you better learn how to cook mija

I learned to dance in my mother’s

kitchen and I got all the secret recipes

two and a half cups of caderas a pound of

gyrating pelvis a pinch of pursed lips a

tablespoon of shaking shoulders and a

generous helping of soul

combined and mix this is a recipe for

ritmo you see we like our food the

way we like our music hot spicy satisfying

con sabor papa I ingested rhythm

through umbilical bonds now ingrained in

my DNA and I can’t rid myself of the

sabor on my blood the swing and salsa I

stepped a natural response to music as

stubborn as a plantain stain you can’t

wash off rhythm is inheritance taste

passed down through generations movement

is inborn and I’m dancing the way my

mother cooks slow sultry spicy sabrosa

natural instinctively dripping sweet

sweat like fresh leche de coco

spinning as fast as piraguas melt in the

summertime south side he dancing with as

much kickass cuchifrito y Bacardi

standing strong like a morning time

bustelo dancing as urgent  as a shot of

ron caña cooling myself up with Kola

Champagne pounding like a papaya Bongo

steamy as pasteles at Christmas

blending my hip hoppy Mambo like a piña

colada my mouth watering for music with

sabor and cadera Sue’s down my hips dulce

as Celia’s azúcar con dulzura

cooking with sabor and bailando con sabor

because mami is making Mambo mami is

making mambo mamucha, come eat the food is

ready

Mambo

 

III. “Boriquas”- Lemon Andersen and Flaco Navaja

Flaco Navaja is a spoken-word poet, actor, musician and bandleader.

Lemon Andersen is a spoken-word poet and actor.

 

ONLINE ENGAGEMENT (Deadline 4/26 until 11:59 PM)

Instructions:

Pick ONE poem and in the comment section below, write a response (225-words minimum) based on ONE of the following questions:

1. Instead of referring to her mom’s accent as a problem or an element of shame, Denise Frohman understands it as a source of empowerment and as a connection to Puerto Rican music and culture. Explain.

2. How Mayda del Valle uses music and her mom’s cuisine to celebrate Puerto Rican culture in Chicago?

3. What experiences Lemon Andersen and Flaco Navaja highlight from their lives as Boricuas in NYC? Why they feel prideful about their identity?

 

*Please, remember that if you want to include direct quotes from the poems and/or external commentators, name your sources and use quotation marks.

10 thoughts on “Diasporican Spoken-Word Poets

  1. 1. Instead of referring to her mom’s accent as a problem or an element of shame, Denise Frohman understands it as a source of empowerment and as a connection to Puerto Rican music and culture. Explain.

    Denise Frohman refers to her mother’s accent as a source of empowerment and as a connection to Puerto Rican music and culture in her poetry because her mother’s accent acts as “ a telegram from her mother decorated with the coqui’s of el campo” and is a “stubborn compass always pointing her towards home”. Her mother’s accent, acting as a telegram, gives her the sense of empowerment of being able to connect with her own mother, along with the beauty of her homelands creatures, “the coqui’s of el campo”, despite her lips barely being able to “stretch themselves around english”. Her mother’s accent is the “compass always pointing her towards home”, and like a compass’s needle, the undeniable strength and attraction towards the “right direction”, shows how her mother’s accent’s destiny was to always tie her back to her roots, her history, her culture, her home. Frohman compares the strength of her mother’s accent to a “shotgun, with two good hands” and her tongue to “all brass knuckles slipping in between her lips, her hips, all laughter and wind clap” because as a Spanish speaker, those are her weapons and essentially what she has to survive in the world that attempts to assimilate people to a “superior” culture. Her mother’s accent is the source of empowerment that many Spanish speakers have, specifically when it comes to being able to create a new form of communicating, for example, Spanglish. For many spanish speakers like Frohman’s mother, “English sits in her mouth remixed”, creating new ways of saying things like “strawberry” becoming “eh-strawbeddy” and “cookie” becoming “a-cookie”. Another sense of empowerment and connection to Puerto Rican culture that her mother’s accent supplies is the ability of her words spilling “in conversations between women whose hands are all they got sometimes” and her accent reminding them “that we are still bomba”. Her mother’s accent not only supplies empowerment to people but also to the community because it brings together people to the point where “a stranger becomes your hermano” and “a crowd becomes a family reunion”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 3) According to Lemon and Flaco, to be Boriqua is a way of life. The Latino community is very tightknit and they have incorporated many of their cultural aspects while living in NY. You do not have to have a specific look to be Boriqua and they prove this by stating ” I got a cousin named Chino with an Asian persuasion that’ll have you fooled, reparations for my grandmother she’s Black enough to own her own 40- acres and a mule.” This shows the variety within their people. They stated that their people have been around since the King of the Bboys, which started in the 1980s in the Bronx, and this shows that they have been at the forefront of Hip Hop from the very beginning. They take pride in this because it shows that they have a spot and participated in history. They identify themselves as “NewYoricans” meaning they have a mixture of Puerto Rican and New York culture. There was a Puerto Rican town located in the city that got replaced by gentrification many years ago. Also, when Puerto Ricans came to America, one of the first places they moved to was New York. This proves the saying, “my people been around since you can remember man.” Boriquas have pride in their identity and state that “internationally no one gets it the way we get it on” and then proceed to say they are the best dancers, have grandmothers that cook food for your soul, have great war stories and strong women. They like to see and highly encourage their people to become successful. Lemon and Flaco took every stereotype about Puerto Ricans and flipped it into a positive perspective. They are prideful about who they are and embrace everything that comes with being a Boriqua. They stated that a Puerto Rican will ” crash your baby shower and have a party in your hallway.” This is one of the stereotypes that they embrace within their spoken word. They embrace the fact that that is who they are and that is how they maneuver throughout life. To be Boriqua is to have much pride, dignity and honor within yourself, your identity and your people. Boriquas have a reputation that they embrace and hold high. Lemon and Flaco are not saying they have the best culture, but they are saying according to them, no other culture can compare.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Question 1
    In her poem Accents Denise Frohman describes her mother’s accent as English remixed, a shotgun, a stubborn compass and more all to describe its beauty. Froham takes pride in her mother’s accent because she knows that it is something passed down to her from generations before. She knows that her mother’s accent is a part of what makes her who she is and connects her to Puerto Rican/Americans all over the US. Her mother’s accent represents cultures, not just Puerto Rican culture but Puerto Rican/American culture as well. The remix between her native culture and American culture is represented through the way she speaks and instead of being ashamed, as many people are, Froham sees the beauty in that.
    People tend to find accents embarrassing because they want to assimilate, be as much like everyone else as possible, and when you assimilate you’re seen as normal. When you aren’t normal you can be seen as a target, to be made fun of and more, so it is understandable why people would feel embarrassed about this, but Froham’s stand isn’t one of shame. Froham practically poses the question ‘who wants to be normal?’ in her poem and not only embraces what makes her mom different, but celebrates it. This celebration of her mom’s accent is great to see and is something that hopefully all who feel ashamed of their differences can grow to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Question 1.

    What is refreshing about Denise Frohman’s poem is the fact that she considers her mom’s accent something to be proud of, not embarrassed of. For Frohman, her mother’s accent is a source of pride because it symbolizes all the effort and struggles her mother went through in order to learn English and adapt to life in the U.S. Beginning with the process of immigration, she also had to find adequate housing, a good job, a good school for her children, and so on, as well as learn a new language, all while being told that her culture is “not good enough” and facing discrimination. Frohman says, “she waited too many years for her voice to arrive to be told it needed housekeeping” (lines 5-7 of her poem), furthering the point that the accent is the result of years of hard work. Frohman’s mother’s accent is also something that Frohman can use to remind herself of her identity when she is feeling lost. When Frohman feels out of place, or stuck in el nie, just listening to her mother’s voice will remind her that she also has Puerto Rican heritage, tradition, music, and culture to claim her own and to enjoy. In this way, her mother’s accent is a link to her Puerto Rican heritage, or a “telegram”, as Frohman says in line 19, that can connect her from wherever she is, whenever she needs it. This is true not only for Frohman but for her mother as well. The accent “is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home” (lines 21-22), reminding both of them of their roots.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Denise Frohman knows that her mother’s accent has been passed down from generations before. This is a tradition that her mom is still embracing. That is why she takes pride in it. Her mother is not only trying to represent Puerto Rican culture but also Puerto Rican/American culture. Instead of shaming her mother, she sees the beauty in her accent. Many people tend to feel ashamed because they can’t assimilate into American culture. Frohman is trying to tell people that they shouldn’t feel ashamed because their accent defines them as a person and that is what makes them different from Americans. Having an accent makes you special! Frohman knows that her mom herself is special she is a very outstanding woman who is trying to show she isn’t afraid of representing her culture and roots.
    Frohman also mentions that her mother accent is stubborn she is trying to imply that her mother is a very brave woman who is very confident in what she believes. Her mother’s accent senses empowerment and connection to Puerto Rican culture that her mother’s accent supplies are the ability of her words spilling “in conversations between women whose hands are all they got sometimes” and her accent reminding them “that we are still bomba.” Her mother’s accent is bringing people together because a stranger becomes a Hermano. A Latino can never forget where he came from. Many like Puerto-Rican people came to the U.S for a better life, to seek more opportunities.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Poem 1

    Denise expresses in many ways in this poem, her mother’s accent as a source of empowerment and as a connection to Puerto Rican music and culture. The first example that represents that would be by her saying in the poem, “Her voice is one size better fit all and you better not tell her to hush!” meaning no one has the power to tell her to be quiet when she wants to speak the truth or whatever it is she wants to say. A second example would be “her tongue can’t lay itself down flat enough for the English language, it got too much hip too much bone too much conga too much cuatro to two-step” and also “too much salsa to sit still it be an anxious child wanting to make Play-Doh out of concrete English be too neat for her kind of wonderful” by this Denise reminds us that accents are beautiful; they are a perfect example of their owner’s hard journey to America and must not be an excuse to shame the people that helped build this country. The final example is when she says “in conversations between women whose hands are all they got sometimes” her accent reminding them “that we are still bomba” which makes “a stranger becomes your hermano” and “a crowd becomes a family reunion” meaning it brings people together like a family.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 1. Instead of referring to her mom’s accent as a problem or an element of shame, Denise Frohman understands it as a source of empowerment and as a connection to Puerto Rican music and culture. Explain.

    Accents all over the world define people’s culture and traditions. An accent can tell a story about where you live or the type of life that you live. For example someone if you have a southern accent it is likely that you spent time in a region with a lot of land. A region where agriculture is important. If you are someone who has a city accent it is likely that you spent time in a region where there is not much land. A region where you rely heavily on manufactured goods. Accents are powerful and they do in fact connect you to a particular place. In Denise Frohman’s poem she talks about her mother’s accent being a “stubborn compass.” I think that is the true essence of the poem because no matter where her mother is in the world her accent will always point back to Puerto Rico. Even though her mom speaks English her accent connects her to conga and salsa. Heritage is important to a person’s identity. The ability to connect to a region through the tongue is important. Denise Frohman’s mother does not try to suppress her accent. Instead she understands the power and the distinction that her accent provides.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Accents” – Denise Frohman
    Denise Frohman’s “Accent” was not created to smear her mother’s accent. This poem is composed to combat the stigma of English speakers towards non-English speakers. Her poem reminds us that the accents are beautiful. Our accents clearly show who we are, where we come from. So there is nothing to be ashamed of by our accents. Denise Frohman expressed her pride in culture and her mother through the poem. “English sits in her mouth remixed so “strawberry” becomes “eh-strawbeddy” and “cookie” becomes “eh-cookie” and kitchen, key chain, and chicken all sound the same. my mama doesn’t say “yes” she says, “ah ha” and suddenly the sky in her mouth becomes Hector Lavoe song.” Denish Frohman connects Puerto Rican music and culture in this poem to indicate that her mother’s English accent always preserves the Puerto Rican culture. The way she speaks English is like singing Hector Lavoe’s song. Through this poem, non-English speakers need to be confident and must not let anyone take our accent for humiliation and bullying. For example, like Chinese people will speak English with Chinese accents, Vietnamese will speak English with Vietnamese accents, and so will other countries. English is not our native language but just a foreign language to us. Therefore, we do not need to be ashamed to not speak English correctly as an English speaker. The United States is a country with a high number of immigrants. Immigrants are always discriminated against by anti-immigrant groups because they do not speak English properly. They argue that the accents of immigrants worsen the English language. Therefore, we need poems such as Denish Frohman’s “Accent” that motivates non-English speakers to feel confident about their accents, about themselves, and about their culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Presentation:
      Question 1:
      In the poem “Accent” by Denice Frohman, the central concern of this writer is the link between accent and culture and national pride. She wants to convey to the reader that not be ashamed of our accent because it expresses ourselves and our roots.
      Question 2:
      Denice Frohman uses the descriptive writing style in the poem to describe her mother’s accent and the strong connection between culture and accent.
      Question 3:
      “my mama’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coqui’s of el campo so even though her lips can barely stretch themselves around English, her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.” In this quote from the poem “Accent”, the poet wants to say that Puerto Rican culture is still associated with her mother. Even though when her mother speaks English, she can not erase her roots. Her Accent clearly shows her true self and her culture. This reminds me of my grandmother. She was born in the countryside in the North Central of Vietnam. For those people who live in the city, her accent is very heavy and hard to hear. She emigrated to many other areas during the Vietnam War. Although she tried to change her accent to sound like Vietnamese standard accent, her central Vietnamese accent could not be changed. Just by hearing her accent, everybody could tell where she came from. Therefore, do not try to change or hate our accents because it is no different than we are denying ourselves and our roots.
      Question 4:
      This poet complements the concerns of other writers in the class because other writers have told us about physical wars but Denice Frohman tells us what spiritual warfare is. Latin American immigrants have had a hard time integrating with American culture, especially in learning English. They were racist because they were not native English speakers. But in the poem “Accent,” the author used a fun and intimate way of describing it to the reader. In class, we had watched the performance “Dominicanish” by Josefina Baez. While Josefina Baez also spoke of language and identity, her performance was a bit darker, more melancholy and more difficult to understand. Therefore, Denise Frohman successfully communicated her concern to the reader.
      Question 5:
      I think most of you guys have parents who are not native English speakers. My question is, have you ever felt ashamed that your parents could not speak English well?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Throughout Denise Frohman’s poem, it is made clear that her mother was not meant to change her identity and sound when moving away from her country. Her identity and roots followed her which probably didn’t “fit in” the American culture. Denise stated in her poem Accents, “my mom holds her accent like a shotgun, with two good hands” Denise is well aware that her mother isn’t trying to perfect her english when speaking, which pushes away the element of shame. Denise shares a part of her culture when she mentions “she speaks a sancocho of spanish and english, pushing up against one another,” sancocho being a mixture of different ingredients which makes the accent unique. Her mother’s accent/tongue also connects with Puerto Rican music as it’s very danceable and doesn’t “lay itself down flat enough for the English language.”As Denise also states “too many piano keys in between her teeth” which adds sauce and sound to the accent. Her mother also doesn’t want to be told to hush because she didn’t wait a long time to come here and be judged on her speaking, but traveled for more important reasons. In the end, “her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home”in which her accent also won’t degrade her persona but uplift Puerto Rican culture. Accents were not meant to blend in but stand out in a proudful way.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s