We are thrilled to announce that Ricardo Thomas Manuel Hernández will be joining us as one of our Spoken Word Sunday hosts at New York City’s Parkside Lounge from October 2019. As an introduction, great weather for MEDIA founding editor Thomas Fucaloro catches up with Ricardo to find out what inspires him.
Thomas: For those of us who may not be familiar with you, Ricardo, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a part of the ever-expansive NYC poetry scene?
Ricardo: I grew up in Brooklyn. I was just another kid from the block. My mother would say I told long-winded stories from when I was young. I could go on and on for days and she'd listen to every word while everyone else would walk away. But I believe my first true poetic telling was with a love interest from the 10th grade when I attended High School. I wrote her poems in the morning before school. During the day at school. And at night right before we'd talk on the phone. Filling up a book that I would carry everywhere in case I was inspired to write.
Fast forward ten years and I find myself performing as much as I can, throughout the five boroughs. Then suddenly, a childhood friend sees what I'm doing, and asks if I'd like to start a poetry series to be held at her bar.
Thomas: We know you are the founder of the Poets Settlement; can you talk about that series and your philosophy when it comes to booking shows?
Ricardo: I started Poets Settlement with limited knowledge and experience from simply attending a number of different open mic shows, writing and performance workshops, going on poetry retreats, featuring for a number of shows, and assisting a few poetic series’ in small ways. My eyes and ears are always open and absorbing all that I can, learning all that I can.
The first year was hard. I had never organized anything alone. But it was a scary new experience that brought me to life… the poets filling the space to perform, enjoying the voices of the evening. As time goes on, various people have assisted with the daily tasks of running the series. The first hands that helped me in Poets Settlement were both non-poets. One simply wanted to flex her skills in assisting anyway she could outside of her normal day of being a barista, while the other was a co-worker that created a micro-brew for the opening night of the series that was sponsored by the company we were working for at the time. I've also had a number of mentors, luckily, that helped by meeting up with me all throughout the life of Poets Settlement to discuss what I want to do, what I have the resources to do, and what I should be doing in the name of poetry.
Even today, Poets Settlement has a team of three poets that assist in co-curating, co-hosting, as well as utilizing social media platforms to inform poets and non-poets of the events we hold, other poetic/ storytelling/ art events throughout the city, as well as poetic news and cultural news from around the world.
I would say my philosophy when it comes to booking features at Poets Settlement is simple. I want to feature poets that should be heard. Poets that people can take wisdom and knowledge from, and bring it home with them. There is, perhaps, a happy balance in there too. I wouldn't want to always feature one type of poet. I have a great love for the many different voices we hear, and I'd like to think that's why when you take a look at the features for Poets Settlement they won't be like the last poet or the next one up.
Thomas: Who are some of the poets who inspire you?
Ricardo: This is always a difficult question for me because there are so many living poets and poets from the past, I feel that have inspired me. I will break it down simply to display and celebrate those that are living poets who've inspired me in a number of ways throughout my life as well as my poetic endeavors… Elisabet Velasquez, Bonafide Rojas, Jani Rose, Thomas Fucaloro (!), Juliet P. Howard, Rich Villar, Lady Lee Andrews, Shane Koyczan, Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Robert Gibbons, Evie Ivy, Dimitri Reyes, Julie Hart, Willie Perdomo, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Arthur Russell, Charolastra DeLuna, Joe Allen Jr., Roya Marsh, Txai Frye, Christine-Jean Blain, Zev Torres, Joanna Hoffman, Mario Pagán, Keisha-Gaye Anderson, Anthony Morales, Abigail Kirby Conklin, Ngoma Hill, Vanessa Chica, Alexander Scelso, Julia Knobloch, Richie Alexandro, Nessa Va, Joe Elliott, Omayma Khayat, Jesus-Papoleto Melendez, Cindy AnaCaona "Black Angel" Peralta, Jay Salazar, Aka Mørch Pedersen, Tai Allen, Denice Frohman, José Guadalupe Olivarez, Serena Morales, Jason Koo, Natalie Diaz, Damien Tillman, Joanna C. Valente, LeJuane El'Ja Bowens, and Nadia Alexis to name a few.
Thomas: What are you most excited about in regard to joining and contributing to great weather for MEDIA at the Parkside Lounge?
Ricardo: At first, the excitement hit because, in all honesty, I was simply shocked and truly honored that I was being selected to join the team at GWFM. Anytime you are recognized for what you do and what you can bring is always a joy.
But when it comes to being part of an excellent series like GWFM, I believe I am most excited about the community and the way art is built into the fabric of that community. The way people are there for each other, and the various ways GWFM is for their poets, writers, and artists in my eyes, it is the type of community we all need.
Thomas: Are there any projects you are currently working on?
Ricardo: Life is the project I'm always working on. How to improve myself into being a better human for the planet I am on. It's a grueling process but I'll get there. As far as poetic projects, I would say I have too many. A lot of the poems I work on require in-depth research in order for it to fit with what I'm attempting to accomplish. But with projects that could one day be published, I would say I have been narrowing down my collection of "finished work" to create my first chapbook. Hopefully I'll also one day get back into writing a children's series I started years ago using my best friend's dog as the main character. He's an adventurous little pup that wants to introduce the world to children in an educational and quite humorous way….
Ricardo Thomas Manuel Hernández was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He founded the Poets Settlement reading series in 2013, was named Brooklyn Poets' Yawper of the Year in 2014, has starred as Allen Ginsberg in Oye Groups’ Ghetto hors D'Oeuvres Last Night of the Palladium, and was published in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, The Magnet 2019, as well as Leisure… Dinner with the Muse Vol. III.