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Author Chat with Regie Cabico

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Transcript of Live Chat
April 16th, 2004

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NYPL: We're so lucky to have Regie Cabico here with us today as our first guest poet for the online poetry chats. Regie is well-known in the New York City area for his work as a slam poet and a standup comic. He has done it all. He won the 1993 New York Poetry Slam. He has published chapbooks and an anthology, including The Petting Zoo, I Saw Your Ex-Lover Behind the Starbucks Counter and Poetry Nation: An Anthology of North American Spoken Word and Written Poetry. His poetry can be found in over 30 anthologies, including Slam, edited by Cicely von Ziegesar. And recently you could find him on HBO's 'Russell Simmons Present Def Poetry Jam', MTV's 'Free Your Mind' competition and the PBS series 'In The Life'. And that's not even mentioning being a touring member with Lollapalooza... Regie, thanks for spending a little time with The New York Public Library, too. It's great to have you here!

Regie_The_Poet: good morning all. i am excited to be here! i've got coffee and ready to type away!!

darla: You're an activist, I think. Is activism part of your poetry, or are those two different parts of your life?

Regie_The_Poet: activism is important because as a poet i try to give voice to underrepresented folks ...such as the filipino american community ...you don't see much filipinos on tv, you know...?

joanne: Regie, how did you get started with poetry?

Regie_The_Poet: when i graduated from NYU as an actor there was nothing but delivery boy parts. i gave up acting to do poetry as an accidental thing. i got accepted at the writers voices writers community workshop and started to read my poems everywhere.

spiderwoman: What do you suggest a young poet who is just getting started should do to BE a poet?

Regie_The_Poet: good question...you name yourself a poet and you let everyone know that you are a poet....start readings, head poetry clubs, start your own zine, publish your own collection even if that means stapling it yourself...!!

darla: How was it being on HBO?

Regie_The_Poet: hbo was GREAT!! i mean it was exciting having your words and voice archived forever plus when i get depressed i can watch myself on HBO on demand !! and feel like an old aging hollywood movie star even if it’s 4 minutes!

darla: Can you talk a little about the difference between being a slam or performance poet and a published poet? The stage versus the page?

Regie_The_Poet: GOOD QUESTION! to me there is no difference between the page and the stage. i place a poetry helmet on...and even if things sound prosey...i still try to make it musical... to the ear as possible...i try to edit and craft all my poems meaning i try to condense it with the least amount of ??ew words as possible. that said there are poems that are more audience friendly!

NYPL: You mention you are Filipino. Did you grow up in the Philippines or in NYC?

Regie_The_Poet: i was born in baltimore lived on crabcakes and rice and then moved to southern maryland where there were no filipino people. i felt like an asian pacific laura ingalls wilder... a pioneer fil-am family at the local catholic church then i moved to new york to go to nyu to study musical theater!

Sandra_P: Do you recall the first poem that spoke directly to you and nobody else but you?

Regie_The_Poet: hi sandra! the first poet to speak to me was ntozake shange i saw a prod of "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuff" and fell in love with poetic monologue... with her love poetry and her rage which you rarely hear or see and thought WOW!

NYPL: My impression of the slam poetry scene is that it is very macho.... true?

Regie_The_Poet: slam poetry takes alot of guts to speak your own poetic gospel truth and be scored by strangers so you do need to be like a matador and be confident and defiant… an evangelist pontificating and sending an umbilical cord of you to an audience… it is a scary but exhilarating experience...you've got 3 minutes to say something what do you want to say

joanne: Do you have a regular schedule for writing, or write when you have something you just have to say?

Regie_The_Poet: i do not have a regular schedule it comes in seasonal cycles i'll eak out a few poems but then go for like 10 poems at a time i do it at nigh,t late at night, and get inspired by something that i've witnessed or when i feel sad or when i'm happy and want to record the events of my life

NYPL: You mention poetry and rage as if they are linked... are they tied together for you and if so, how?

Regie_The_Poet: poetry and rage are tied in that it is an overwhelming emotion... i used to be full of rage but now i have mellowed...out!

Greg781: When did you first realize you like poetry? For the life of me I can't get it. Is there a secret?

Regie_The_Poet: in the late 80s and 90s alot of poets of color were anthologized THE OPEN BOAT was a collection of Asian-Am poets and I thought where is my experience of family in literature...i realized that poetry was inaccessible to me ...i could not relate to emily dickinson....or flies or her snakes... what does that have to do with me...? i didn't know that poetry could be FUN cyn. zarco was a poet who wrote short poems about being filipino and growing up in new york… she was an inspiration

joanne: Do people recognize you on the street because of HBO?

Regie_The_Poet: yes.. .and its scary. i do love to meet people but only if i'm dressed well and have my hair combed... folks will stop you in the subway and have long conversations with you like you had thanksgiving dinner with them! its great though...that your words are listened to ...and appreciated.

Sandra_P: So where in NYC can a teen poet go to perform their work? Where should I go to get my work published?

Regie_The_Poet: well NYPL and Urban Word usually give workshops for teens....also Poets House has a listing of publications and zines for teens you can google these sites

jen: is mellowing out just part of maturity or do you think finding a voice and audience for your poetry has the effect of making one less angry, since you are finding a connection with others, and that is satisfying? or is it both?

Regie_The_Poet: wow what a long quest...mellowing out is just a regular aging process for me...i look at the world differently...these days i watch animal planet animal rescue and start to cry for animals...i am more sensitive to the world the war etc...

Sandra_P: Has poetry and being a poet taken you 'round the world?

Regie_The_Poet:

yes like the lisa stanfield song i've been around the world. a year after slamming my poetry i toured with smashing pumpkins the beastie boys and courtney love on lollapalooza and have been to germany, canada and france and have been to over 50 colleges and universities...teaching poetry/ performance/ spoken word / theater



Greg781:

To me, poetry and music are intertwined in many instances. Have you written any song lyrics or set your poems to music?



Regie_The_Poet:

poetry is intertwined with all the arts dance, painting, singing, its the water that flows through the imagination even film too... i worked with a composer and she scored a little song... i think lyrics are hard... i think a lot of musical theater composers like stephen sondheim and cole porter are great poets and they probably though i didn;t know it influenced me...my song went something like: my heart goes like monster clouds and the pink man on stilts one tear for the world and the pink rainbow frowns spelling doomsday doomsday.... i wish i could sing it for you ...its a haunting little lullaby



batgirl:

slam is kinda different from "traditional" poetry ... what are some of your old favorites that you might read quietly to yourself on a sunday morning?



Regie_The_Poet:

old favorites... there all as early as walt whitman to know..is frank o'hara an old favorite...i can appreciate shakespeare but i tend to read every contemp poetry anthology i can get my hands on



Sandra_P:

Have you worked with artists who are not wordsmiths and what was that like?



Regie_The_Poet:

rollerskate, (yes i did roller disco !) breakdance, mime but never painted i love the feel of paints



darla:

You've done so much! What was the best experience?



Regie_The_Poet:

i think discovering that i could teach poetry...when i first learned to get through a whole semester teaching adults and having them confess their life story...i didn't think i had that gift ...i was intimidated by my acting teachers at NYU they were from the tough love school of acting...so when i teach i teach with the belief that everyone has a point of view and a story to tell and like barbara Walters you seduce the poet out of them to the page and then having them read their poems as if they were living or reliving that moment ..i think that’s been my highlight



Greg781:

Do you have any big projects coming up or something you've always wanted to do but couldn't find the time / money / support?



Regie_The_Poet:

my lifetime goal is to have my solo play produced off-broadway. its biographical and is a retrospective of my stand up comedy, poems and monologues. It’s tentatively titled "straight out" and a performance of it will be at henry street settlement may 14 at 8pm. you would think that a book would be my long term goal but its really combing poetry and theater



joanne:

Who are your favorite poets now?



Regie_The_Poet:

kimiko hahn has been a wonderful support as an elder poet...there is an emerging poet jennifer knox who is really funny...there are too many really to say



NYPL:

What do your parents think of you being a poet? Better than being an actor?



Regie_The_Poet:

my parents have no clue about poetry...they have a limited english vocabulary so they're usually proud of it but i don't know if they get all the layers... my parents always know that i was a big ham and so acting was not a shock to them



joanne:

Do you enjoy teaching or performing more?



Regie_The_Poet:

i need both if i did too much of one i'd be off-balance teaching is like performing though!! you give out energy



spiderwoman:

Are your poems about you?



Regie_The_Poet:

my poems are all me in that they reveal who i am even if i am not being confessional



spiderwoman:

Have you experienced any discrimination in the performance poetry community?



Regie_The_Poet:

its hard to say you know every community is gossipy and cliquish for the most part i've been able to swim and float through literary communities



darla:

What is your favorite place to perform? Outdoors, in a theater, on TV, etc?



Regie_The_Poet:

i just love a little coffee house round tables actually a packed house the nuyorican poets cafe on a fri nite



joanne:

Tell us more about the Straight Out project?



Regie_The_Poet:

straight out is my life divided from 13 to 23 (my life as an aspiring musical theater performer but who got tired of playing chino from west side story) 23-25 discovering poetry and then where ever my life is now (?)



jen:

What are your feelings on political poetry?



Regie_The_Poet:

political poetry ? well all poems are political every statement you make and want read is an act of power even if its writing about butterflies...yes? i think that there are a lot of 1 note political poems that are sometimes one-layered. i love audre lorde's poem POWER it has levels and is full of passion... i think joy harjo has so many political levels combining myth, being a woman, native american, etc...



Greg781:

Has any big time personality or someone you respect asked you to write a poem for them? Do you take requests?



Regie_The_Poet:

i usually write about celebrities as an admirer from afar but if johnny depp asked me i would write neruda odes for him...please let me know if a big celebrity wants me to write for him or her



NYPL:

What's your favorite thing about NYC?



Regie_The_Poet:

NYC is constantly in flux i like that



Sandra_P:

What's the difference between the audiences at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Bowery Poetry Club, and the St. Marks Poetry Project, all downtown Manhattan spaces?



Regie_The_Poet:

nuyorican: young, vibrant, crowd constantly filtering new voices like salmon upstream. st marks poetry project: experimental, avante garde, beat, new york school, long lineage of poets.Taylor Mali and Celena Glemm they define the aesthetics for the bowery slam



Greg781:

Do poets do slams or poetry battles over the internet in chat rooms?



Regie_The_Poet:

i did a global slam with three countries via the internet...it was more like a three way reading through the performance space The Kitchen



NYPL:

How did you first get the courage to go up on stage and perform?



Regie_The_Poet:

i said it’s either make it in poetry or go to law school or be a massage therapist



jen:

do you follow Amiri Baraka's work at all? He has some fantastic angry poems, but what did you think about his controversial 9/11 poem which just came across as paranoid and anti-Semitic?



Regie_The_Poet:

i like amiri baraka's work a lot particularly his early poems the one about lemons...? anyway the 9/11 is not my favorite poem of his but if it wakes people up! and gets them excited about poetry and if a poet laureate challenges the world with words then bravo!



Sandra_P:

Do you have a muse?



Regie_The_Poet:

my muse is messy and looks like antonio banderas he smokes cigarettes and doesn't speak much



joanne:

What can we say to teens who shrug and say "they don't get it" when we try to encourage them to try poetry?



Regie_The_Poet:

you’ve got to give them crystal williams' poem "in search of aunt jemima" use the def poetry jam broadway anthology... with the broadway cast ...



darla:

Where is the best place to watch a poetry slam?



Regie_The_Poet:

nuyorican poets cafe on a friday night at 10 if that’s too late try bowery poetry club thursdays at 7 or bar 13 mondays at 7pm...contact urban word if you are a teen and catch their teen poetry slam finals in march...this year hip hop recording artist kanye west host the slam it was really exhilarating. there was a one minute round of competition which was phenomenal i think slam poets need to exercise their one minute works. too much rambling happens in three minutes



Sandra_P:

Would you like to be the poet laureate of Manhattan?



Regie_The_Poet:

YES YES YES and I would make Poets In Residence in EVERY HIGH SCHOOL mandatory!! …and a poet in every library!



Greg781:

Why do you use slang in your poetry?



Regie_The_Poet:

i'm not sure what you mean by slang but if its non standard english...i use it like a visual artist would use particular paints...i write in different voices and the lower case thing is when i am feeling "earthy"...??



NYPL:

Do you do poetry workshops or presentations for elementary school kids or in libraries?



Regie_The_Poet:

yes all the time... i teach in two hospitals now bellevue and kings county hospital working with teens



Sandra_P:

Sooo...if you had to name poets that we had better pay attention to, of else, who would those poets be...of course, besides yourself?



Regie_The_Poet:

Jennifer Knox . Ada Limon.TIna Chang, Celena Glenn (slam circuit) Taylor Mali (slam), Anselm Berigan (director at St Marks Poetry Project), Crystal Williams, her book is Kin...Noelle Kockot ( i don’t know if I spelled her name right) - she is a dazzling literary genius...Sarah Gambito (her book will be out soon>>>) A. Van Jordan has a new book form Norton



NYPL:

What do you learn from the teens you work with at Bellevue and Kings County?



Regie_The_Poet:

they really push me to really be direct real and simple...they teach me to find the right questions or poems to trigger their flow and that their lives are so valuable



Sandra_P:

What is the most favorite line of your own poetry?



Regie_The_Poet:

Peter Meets The Wolf "the way a tree falls when lightening strikes it is what he was to him and he to him a flute the way reeds blow in a howl it was like that for many months him falling down and the other making music from the timber" this was one of my first poems and ten years later is in the anthology spoken word revolution. i was really private about this poem i waited ten years to send it to a "prestigious" journal but finally relinquished it up and i am happy it’s out there...



NYPL:

Regie, thanks for joining us. Is there anything else you'd like to say?



Regie_The_Poet:

i have done so much writing it’s like doing 100 haikus... thank you all and please google me most of my poems appear online these days! thank you all .



NYPL:

Don't forget you can see Regie live in "Straight Out" - May 14th, 8 PM at the Henry Street Settlement. Please join us next Friday at 10 AM when we'll be chatting with Michele Serros! See you then...