Roger Bonair-Agard

On Sunday, May 15, 2011, Roger Bonair Agard welcomed folks from many of his varied camps –students, friends, family, teachers, and poets to hear him read and celebrate the launch of his sophomore effort, “Gully.” The title has many connotation: low part of a channel, the toughest area of the ghetto, but for Roger’s purposes those definitions are only the beginning. For the poet it’s also a position in the sport of cricket, at which Agard’s hero Frank Worrell dominated. Roger, a Trini through and through is spiritually never far from home. And cricket, (think 10-hour baseball game) a major sport in the Caribbean, serves as metaphor for his place in the world as an immigrant, man, poet.

Click here to view photos from Roger Boair Agard’s reading of “Gully.”

In 1999, before the books, Cave Canem fellowship, and teaching positions we interviewed the poet in Mosaic #7. Then, he was an open mic slam champion gallivanting cross country decimating opponents –in fraternity of course.

“Gully” was published by Cypher Books, Willie Perdomo’s publishing company. With great foresight, Willie was also featured in Mosaic #7.

The poet must first discover himself before he finds the root of all things. Once he claims a path, the expedition doesn’t end; it takes turns, uncovering many layers of soul. Roger Bonair-Agard is sure of this. His forthcoming collection And Chaos Congealed, is a courageous testimonial on the voyage of self-discovery, spanning oceans and interstates, coming to you live from the pulpit of open-mike stages, making you feel that old phenomenon: the spoken word.

The ties that bind art and artistry are intrinsic within the artist, weaving a tapestry where the remnants of his experiences are glorious to behold.

I am feeling without a doubt that I am doing what I was meant to do, Bonair-Agard asserts, confident with his decision to be a poet instead of pursuing law school. “What I do so requires that I constantly examine who I am, and take the stances I take to question my own politics. One needs to question one’s life at all times and what I do gives me the best chance to do that.” His poetic vision allows him tremendous insight into the human condition, making his work poignant and captivating. Dreadlocked and handsome, the energy he radiates makes one yield closer, bearing witness to his testimonies of soul-survival on a journey to figure out what exactly is going on in [his] life.”

A graduate of Hunter College, Bonair-Agard has been featured at various venues throughout the country including New York’s Nuyorican Poet’s Café where he was the 1998 Nuyorican Poets Café Fresh Poet of the Year. He acknowledges the Café for putting him on the map, allowing him to spar in the poetic arena. It gives me the opportunity to share a piece of me that I wouldn’t be able to give otherwise, explains Bonair-Agard of his performances that often leaves audiences wanting more. The marriage of artistic forms is equally important in his work because it allows one to make associations with not only words but also movement and sounds. “If a painter or dancer can evoke the message [of the spoken word] that’s a beautiful thing.”

“Creation gives me an adrenaline rush,” he smiles, radiating mahogany like the candle light of an East Village bar. “The most exciting part is when [an idea] grabs you spontaneously and it writes itself.” This catharsis allows Bonair-Agard to share a more intimate part of himself with others. His autobiographical/confessional tone pulls one into a universe where matriarchs are synonymous with strength, where heritage is the root of self-preservation, and mangoes are equivalent to bliss.

Women are a primary influence in Bonair-Agard’s oeuvre. “I love women, women excite me, and as such, their image makes their way into my work either as an erotic theme or an other kind of inspiration.”

They are not only erotic, but revolutionary.  The immense strength of the women in his family, mostly his mother and grandmother, has infinitely challenged and inspired his work and ideals.

A native of Trinidad, Bonair-Agard combines the tropical with aspects of Americana that fuel his vision on love, social issues and returning to one’s legacy. His pursuit of self-discovery and lust for life is framed within the metaphor of his poems, alluding: �I have come full circle/in search of a world I can be proud to leave to my sons/ touting discipline over license/education over ignorance.� His poetic vision works like a sieve, allowing the essential to remain in his perspective. The recording of his life in poetry results in an awareness that makes Bonair-Agard realize the importance of the things one did not understand as a child but knows well as an adult.

Completing his forthcoming collection and currently at work on a new project, Bonair-Agard recently won the National Poetry Slam in Chicago.

I like being on the road and having the ability to experience new places and to take my work somewhere else. In some remote corners of the United States, what I have to say has never been said by someone like me. That’s exciting.

Freelance photographer Marcia E. Wilson/WideVision Photography gallivants around NYC looking for literary events to spotlight on the “Around Town” page. She may be at a reading near you.

Roger Bonair Agard

Mosaic #7, 1999
Roger Bonair Agard