The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo. New York Puerto Ricans might find themselves in a familiar world in this collection of poetry, but non-Puerto Ricans will discover a portal into a culture which, though close by, is not well-appreciated. These poems memorialize Willie’s uncle, whom he did not know. Through breadcrumbs like whispers at family gatherings, Willie manages to reimagine this uncle, a percussionist, in the person of Shorty Bon Bon, whose name comes from the sound of drums. Cadence is as important as words in this poetic jam session. The imagery is often arresting: “The lifelines on his palms/began to split and look for second takes.” My favorite is Shorty Bon Bon’s Freedom Song, which you can hear Willie read on Youtube. For all its societal criticism, it is very funny, and you get to experience how integral rhythm is to this work. Shorty repeatedly addresses the Poet, showing who he is, and the poet responds with seven takes on The Birth of Shorty Bon Bon. The final take begs to be performed as it hypnotically combines drum and incantation. Willie’s notes at the end are a gift.
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