Miguel Pinero was a Puerto Rican who moved to the Lower East Side of New York with his family when he was just four. After several stints in jail he became part of a play writing workshop while in Sing Sing prison. The play which resulted from this workshop was called Short Eyes and ended up being staged on Broadway and receiving several Tony awards. Not content with playwriting Pinero also wrote poetry and was a founder member of the Nuyorcian Poets Cafe. The cafe is still open today and champions all types of artists who are existing outside of the mainstream, and held New York’s first ever poetry slam. Pinero’s literary acclaim however did not help him stray from the path he had already set his life on, which was drug addiction and crime. He eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1988.
I had no knowledge of Pinero and the Nuyorcian Poets Cafe before watching this film and I hoped to find out more about both him and the arts movement he was part of. Benjamin Bratt in the lead role is certainly captivating, and he delivers performance poetry in a way that most can almost dream of. However the film is let down by its non-linear narrative.
Since modernism it has been accepted that there is no need to have a linear narrative, and any watching or reading audience has become used to the flash-back and flash-forward. Pinero suffers from so many flash-forward’s and back’s that it is hard not to get motion sickness. In one way it mirrors the chaotic life of Pinero, but in itself becomes so chaotic that it is hard to get a handle on the man or his work. It is the filmatic equivalent of doing a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces.
If you know nothing about Pinero or the Nuyorcian Poets Cafe it may be a good place to start to find out more. If you are interested in performance poetry watching Bratt will certainly be helpfull, however it is a style I have seen copied so many time you will need to bring something new and of yourself to really make it sing.
Do you know anything about Pinero or NPC? I’d love to hear more so get in touch.