Welcome to the Plátano Poetry Café, hosted by me: Jasminne Mendez, lover all things poetry and plátano.
The Plátano Poetry Café is my new blog and writer profile series all for and about Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean poets, writers, books, and literary shenanigans. I have created this blog/series because I am tired of feeling excluded.
At the end of 2017, after feeling exhausted by all the "literature lists" that highlighted everyone BUT Afro-Latinx writers, I created my own list: The 10 Afro-Latinx Poetry Books You Need Right Now. The list was widely shared and "liked" on the interwebs. Following that, I curated an Afro-Latinx Poetry Issue with Queen Mob's Teahouse that also made its way on the Twitter and has been widely shared and applauded.
Both of these instances made realize (once again) that Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean writers are not celebrated enough in the literary world. I want to change that. I also want to connect us to each other and provide a platform where we can feel like a community, reach out if we know of a reading, publishing opportunity or performance gig where we might share our work and where our voices and stories might be needed.
I have modeled this page and been greatly inspired by Trevor Boffone and his website 50PP (50 Playwrights Project) which seeks to highlight and amplify the voices of Latinx playwrights in America. A couple of years ago, Trevor realized there was no database, list, archive or website that listed all of the Latin-American playwrights writing today. So, he decided to create one. The Plátano Poetry Café is my version of that for Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean writers. Trevor has been a close friend and mentor to me over the years and I admire the work he is doing for the Latinx theatre community. If you haven't checked out 50PP you should!
When I decided I wanted to create a space to highlight, empower and amplify the voices of Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean writers, I asked myself: what is something we all have in common? The Afro-Caribbean diaspora is varied in languages, culture, music, and traditions. But one of the things I believe we all share is our love of and our use of the plátano in our meals. Plátanos grow wild all over the Caribbean and whether we fry it, bake it, mash it, stuff it, boil it or like them sweet or salty, I knew that all of us could rally around our love of the plantain.
So here we are, our first installment of the Plátano Poetry Café and I couldn't be more excited! Beginning this April (National Poetry Month) I will highlight/interview two Afro-Latinx/Afro-Caribbean poets a month. I will post these interviews on the first and fifteenth of each month. Poets will share a poem with you, talk about their writing life, identity, current projects, hopes and dreams, and even share their favorite plátano recipe. You are guaranteed enlightenment, joy and if nothing else poetry and plátanos.
Our first two poets featured will be Jennifer Maritza McCauley author of Scar On/Scar Off and Roberto Carlos Garcia author of black/Maybe: An Afro Lyric. Check out their websites, buy their books and support them!
Aside from interviewing poets, a few times a year, I will also curate and share "lists" like the one I created in 2017 above. My hope, over the next couple of years is also to create a "Fritos and Fiction Café" for Afro-Latinx/Afro-Caribbean fiction writers (YA and Middle Grade included) and a "Maduros and Memoir Café" for memoirists and creative non-fiction writers. I am starting with poets, because that is the community I know best, but if you are a memoirist or fiction writer feel free to send me a note so I can begin to follow you and your work and when the time is right, I will definitely reach out!
Lastly, you may be asking yourself why Afro-Latinx AND Afro-Caribbean writers and poets? Because I know many of us from our different islands share similar stories and I believe we all need to be celebrated more regardless of how we identify. I know the Haitian community has a lot to say and I don't want to be complicit in silencing or ignoring them anymore. I know there are Jamaican poets like Safiya Sinclair and other Afro-Caribbean poets who have probably longed for a community or more inclusivity and are not sure where to begin looking. I'd like the Plátano Poetry Café to be that place.
I am looking forward to interviewing and sharing the work of other like-minded poets in the coming months and I welcome your feedback and thoughts on how I can improve. Feel free to use the CONTACT link at the top of the page and send me a note about anything related to the café, my own personal writing, if you're a writer that would like to be featured, or if you have a plátano recipe you want to share with me!
Hasta la proxima and may the force of the plátano be with you!