A suite of poems about a percussionist in 1970 Spanish Harlem music circles, from the author of The Crazy Bunch
A National Book Critics Circle 2014 Finalist for Poetry
Through dream song and elegy, alternate takes and tempos, prizewinning poet Willie Perdomo’s third collection crackles with vitality and dynamism as it imagines the life of a percussionist, rebuilding the landscape of his apprenticeship, love, diaspora, and death. At the beginning of his infernal journey, Shorty Bon Bon recalls his live studio recording with a classic 1970s descarga band, sharing his recollection with an unidentified poet. This opening section is followed by a call-and-response with his greatest love, a singer named Rose, and a visit to Puerto Rico that inhabits a surreal nationalistic dreamscape, before a final jam session where Shorty recognizes his end and a trio of voices seek to converge on his elegy.
About the Author
Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime, a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award, and Smoking Lovely, a winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award. His collection The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is a National Book Critics Circle 2014 Finalist for Poetry. His poems have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Bomb, and other publications. He is an Instructor of English at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Praise for The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon:
“A vivid portrait of a late-20th century Nuyorican musical community. . .Perdomo manages to mix the language of city life with a sense of the transcendent.”—NPR.org
“With his new collection of poems, Perdomo offers a soulful melody that is as deep and vital and dynamic as the poet’s roots in New York City’s Nuyorican poetry scene. . .his third book is mined from the marrow of salsa and steeped in the spirit of son and cocolos that inhabit the poet’s beating heart. . .With Shorty, Willie exercises a mastery of language and imagery that hums us into a furious clave of grace.”—Poets and Writers
“Willie Perdomo’s lines are ritualistic codes whose speaking is likely to summon the saints or ‘whistle evil out of [your] garden.’ If your ears, feet, and heart have not been initiated yet into the myth-making genius, sly observances, hip-speak, and erudition of this poet’s pen then The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is your body’s reparation and reconciliation act, your own bomb-diggity.”—Major Jackson, author of Holding Company
"In these poems, Perdomo gathers the shards of what has been broken or lost and forges a relentlessly lyrical language out of the fragments, reminding us that this, when done lovingly, urgently, astutely, is a way to both recover and survive history. This is a gorgeous, historically engaged collection of poems from a poet in the depths of his true language and practice."—Aracelis Girmay, author of Teeth and Kingdom Animalia
“The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is combustible poetry, bursting with love and longing and the potent tropical rhythms that fuel Willie Perdomo’s imagination.”—Jessica Hagedorn, author of Toxicology and Dogeaters
“Reading The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is like walking into a Bembé, just at the moment when the gods have descended, the moment between the silence of awe and the still shrill cry of the singers. And Perdomo's skill and lyrical voice is like a wet finger drawn slowly, agonizingly over the taut skin of a drum face, until the very last moment when it explodes into beat. A beautiful, accomplished book.”—Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas and The Virgin of Flames
"How did we do without this book for so long? Willie Perdomo excavates the history and colors of son and salsa down to the bones of slavery and into the vivid streets of Nuyorican America. This descarga of a book, this Bembé of poetry will set up in the middle of your palms, mold your head into a conga polyrhythm and never miss a beat. Best pay attention, ya'll."—Tyehimba Jess, author of Leadbelly
“Willie Perdomo is one of the funkiest poets writing today. Every one of his poems comes with its own soundtrack, so it makes sense that he could give us a collection as original and melodious as The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon. Like the imaginary percussionist the book is named after, this collection is part myth, part elegy, and all rhythm. Through these remarkable poems, we see the intimate moments of a man whose life is driven by drums and who, in the end, makes us all more aware of the music we live in.”—Adrian Matejka, author of The Big Smoke