March 10, 2004 by

Pedro Pietri


Categories: Military, Writers/Editors

ppietri.jpgPedro Pietri composed poems that illustrated the lives of Puerto Rican New Yorkers. His work served as an inspiration to many young Latino poets who patronized the Nuyorican Poets Café, a Lower East Side establishment Pietri co-founded.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, Pietri began writing poetry in high school. He was drafted into the Army after graduation and served with a light infantry brigade in Vietnam. He returned home fiercely opposed to the war.
In 1973, he published “Puerto Rican Obituary,” his signature poem about the lives of five people who came to the United States and never managed to attain the American dream. Its message resonated with young Puerto Ricans living in New York who called themselves Nuyoricans. When Pietri was diagnosed with inoperable cancer last year, his friends and fans donated $30,000 for his care.
Pietri wrote 20 books of spoken word pieces, poems and songs, including “El Puerto Rican Embassy” and “The Spanglish National Anthem.” He also produced two albums with Folkway Records and worked as an AIDS activist.
Pietri died on Feb. 3 from renal failure. He was 59.
Listen to a Tribute to Pietri From NPR

7 Responses to Pedro Pietri

  1. Mpho Ramaano

    I dedcated the following poem to a fallen stalwart.
    for the dead reverend
    Your mystical sermons haunt
    my infected mind,
    lines constructed with anger and rage.
    Your poetry refused to be zombied
    at the feet of your coffin.
    Even in the cold grave
    your lines defy,
    they shoot straight into the heart
    of a colonized mind.
    They haunt even maverick power-lines
    of the United aSses of America.
    Your poetry is not to be quoted
    in fake speeches of political mafias,
    it stands to decolonize of people
    the consciousness.
    Sadly, your grave torments us Pedro Pietri.
    Horns that sang peace at a distance
    have suddenly turned mute.
    Your hands have finally retired
    to the worm supremacy
    beneath the pregnant soils,
    foul of a freedom aborted.
    But, we dare not forget
    a mind that refused to be colonized.

  2. David wa Maahlamela

    O hwile monna
    o hwile hwi hwi
    o ile
    o kodumetse
    o e ragile
    o a kgonamisitse
    o meditswe ke mohlaethupa
    Jonna Joo!
    o hwile…
    Pedro Pietri

  3. jayson

    To my uncle a vision
    u layed upon me
    of a soldier wandering threw
    a uncharted land
    lost beyond belief
    wounded yet he standz
    a city shadowing a waving flag
    scared of fate dealin cards
    keepin players underclassed
    seeing a path
    that is hidden under
    the long grass
    legs move with no control
    upon a path that glows
    mind raceing
    lost in da crowd
    a ricans thoughts
    scream loud
    for no one to hear
    a million words for a tear
    u spoke and through the smoke
    blurry visions went clear
    a sequel to a story
    many have read
    and a vision of us breed
    to thrive
    not just exist

  4. Wisdom'of'GOD

    para el rey de la isla mas bonita
    que bonita bandera
    let your ancestors where it proud
    because of you
    a king de el sol
    Soy boricua…….
    rest in piece Pedro.
    you set the tone for the greats.
    shine your wisdom upon the rest of us from the heavens above.

  5. HORNS


  6. David wa Maahlamela

    May Day
    it is worker’s day
    i still dig diamond
    to impregnate their pockets,
    and the voice of pietri
    talks to my inmost,
    double pay
    double pay
    honest i have to be,
    i can’t celebrate
    with a groaning belly,
    leaders of our unions
    our honorable madishas and vavis
    are getting paid
    to celebrate these days,
    and i, an ordinary man
    see nothing but opportunity
    in days like these,
    double pay
    double pay.
    i heard our leaders are common men,
    they know our pain
    yet they drive flying car
    living like the motsepes,
    what pain do they know?
    i can’t apologize
    for working on may day,
    as long as our pockets weight different,
    as long as the truth is still the sun
    we look at it wearing spectacles,
    as long as political power
    is not tied to economic power.
    the truth is all i grope for
    when cosatu and other unions
    remain silent on burning issues of workers,
    mma sebola is not yet buried
    boere van waterpoort vat nie kak
    a homeless farm worker can not be buried
    in their land,
    where are our leaders
    maybe at the boarder gate to mugabe’s land
    if not to king moswati’s land,
    no breast to feed native children
    these nineteen seventy-or-eighty-something
    written constitution
    amended in nineteen ninety-three
    doesn’t talk of pre-jan van reiberk ownership
    those who went to varsities can explain these better,
    i is an ordinary mine worker
    all i know is to dig
    dig, dig, dig and dig glittering stone
    but i see no guilty in me
    working on this day
    and so does pedro pietri
    i see him raising high his fist
    saying: to wa maahlamela; amanda!

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