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The Poet’s Passage is a spot every community should have. Darned if it isn’t in Puerto Rico.
The shop, part coffee shop, part art store, part living room for the little old city, sits beside the little old supermarket on Calle de la Cruz in Old San Juan. All the streets in Old San Juan are cobbled in bluish stone called adoquine that arrived in Puerto Rico as ballast on Spanish ships in the 1500s. The light from shop windows makes the streets glow indigo in the frequent rain at night. One half of The Poet’s Passage is a coffee shop, with drinks like the Metaphor café latte, or the espresso (of course, called a Haiku), or the Rhyme, a latte with vanilla, almond and caramel. There are comfy chairs, a wide window to look out on the plaza, and pastries.
Across a hall is the poetry shop, with paintings, poetry in calligraphy and on ceramic tiles, poetry books and sculpture for sale. There’s also a chatty parrot named Neruda who sometimes nips.
Every Tuesday night, the shop hosts an open mic poetry reading, usually with music, and sometimes the event spills out into the plaza across the street. One reading in March drew almost 2,000 people, then they had to move it indoors at midnight and it stretched on until 3 a.m.
Just beside the main, but tiny, supermarket in Old San Juan, The Poet’s Passage is owned by Lady Lee Andrews, a poet with three books published (Naturally, Changing and True Love), and her husband Nicolas Thomassin, who paints lovely images of the doors, landscapes and cobbled streets of Old San Juan and sells the prints for reasonable prices. He also makes the miniature plaster doors in the rainbow sherbet colors of Puerto Rico.
Andrews’ poetry is both personal and universal, with lines like: “I looked up and saw nothing there/ to cover the blue/ fresh air I was breathing in/ I think I closed my eyes twice/ before I realized I was/ dreaming like a child/ with a red kite.”
Old San Juan is the kind of place that on Easter Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people from the town turn out to fly kites on the grounds of the El Morro, the sixteenth-century Spanish citadel built to guard the Caribbean. It’s also the kind of place that values poetry enough to keep a poetry store in business. The Poet’s Passage feels like a community hub – the kind of organization that HoCoPoLitSo seeks to be. If only we had the Puerto Rican trade winds and sunshine.
Susan Thornton Hobby
A few more pictures follow:
- Read a poem. Out loud. Feel it the sound of it move through you and into the air.
- Watch and listen to Billy Collins’ Ted Talk.
- Practice the math of counting syllables by writing a 5-7-5 haiku.
- Follow HoCoPoLitSo on Facebook. And Twitter.
- Read a Poetry Blog.
- Stop by the library on the way home and borrow a volume of poetry.
- Read the latest issue of Little Patuxent Review.
- Tweet some poetically purple prose. Retweet someone else’s.
- Email a friend a favorite poem.
- Print out a poem and put it on a bulletin board for others to see.
- Watch a poet on YouTube.
- Bilingual? Have a go at translating a poem. Not? Try the exercise with a friend that has a second language.
- Write a love poem, just for fun. Share it with the intended.
- Subscribe to Poets.org’s Poem a Day email.
- Make a comment on a Poetry Blog.
- Find a soon to be significant other and read Neruda’s 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair to each other.
- Donate to HoCoPoLitSo.
- Read a poem out loud to someone else.
- Go to a poetry reading at a coffee house. If it is an open mic, share your own work.
- Jot down an ode to something ordinary in your life.
- Buy tickets for yourself and a friend to the Nightbird Reading, featuring Kim Addonizio, Michael Cirelli, Nayma Ayala, and Mother Ruckus. After the evening reading, post on the HoCoPoLitSo page about your experience.
- Support a poet, buy their book. Now really support them: read it.
- Celebrate National Poem in You Pocket Day, April 26th, by carrying a poem in your pocket and sharing it with others.
- Take on Poets.org’s list of 30 things to do for National Poetry Month.
- Tweet about poetry. If it’s Friday, tell your followers to #ff @hocopolitso.
- Memorize a poem and carry it around inside you. Let it out again and again when the occasion warrants.
- Add a quote from a poem to your email signature for a month. Switch it with a new one next month. (No reason to stop the practice just because it isn’t National Poetry Month in May.)
- Watch an episode (or two) of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life on YouTube.
- Tell a poet what their work means to you. They’d love to hear. Face to face, in email, in a good old fashioned card.
- Encourage someone else to join you in taking on this list. After all, poetry is a thing best shared with others.