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welcome back to the newly reformatted bonafiderojas.com 
i still wonder about the benefit of this page in the grand scheme of
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Uptown Collective’s Q&A with Bonafide Rojas

Q&A With Bonafide Rojas

Q&A With Bonafide Rojas

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Q. Who is Bonafide Rojas?

A. I laughed when i saw this question because i thought to myself, “oh man, really!” who am i? i am bonafide rojas, born 10/08/1977, a bronx born & raised, lived in puerto rico as a young boy (real young). i have lived on the grand concourse section of the bronx for over 30 years but i tend to leave new york every few years to “explore” the world. i’m a father to a 8 year old little boy, a loving son, a wild little brother, a loyal friend, an author, a shit talker, a music snob, a poetry teacher, a salesman, a retired graffiti writer, but sometimes the labels/experience of your life don’t really say enough, i’m a hurricane in a small room, a bomb going off in a church, a ear when you need one, feedback in a love song, the long haired puerto rican in the corner with the chuck taylors on…yeah thats close…

Q. I love the name of your band, The Mona Passage. For those that don’t know, what is the Mona Passage and why was it chosen for the name of your band?

A. The mona passage is the strait of water that separate the dominican republic & puerto rico. the name was taking in part of me reading a dictionary & stumbling on the name. it refers to myself & my co-founder of the band vincent ramirez, a talented musician/painter from washington heights. we’ve been making music together for over 10 years now. the band started playing 2005 & even with the numerous line up changes, we still push along, knowing that this music we create has a place somewhere & needs to be heard.

Q. Tell us about the book and where can it be purchased.

A. My new book is called “when the city sleeps” it is a documentation of my new york. as every generation passes & claim new york as their own. i thought it was very important to tell the story of new york from a child who was raised in the 90′s. new york became very very different after 2001 with the creation of “quality of life” & guiliani as mayor. the music, the art, the culture of new york from 1990-2000 is a foundation for myths & legends. i found it very necessary to write this book so i created my own publishing company called “grand concourse press” & now its available i am very very excited about the whole experience & being able to share it with everyone.

Q. You took the “Go West Young Man” saying literally. Please tell us about the tour you are embarking on?

A. Well “the califas2012 tour” was a result to last year’s winter & as a adult i was fed up, i told myself next year i will not have a winter. so fast forward to halloween for the abrupt snowstorm we experienced, cemented my decision. i was published in a journal called “palabra” out of los angeles & i spoke to the editor about a show & she asked me “do you have a book to promote?” so i answered “yes” knowing “when the city sleeps” wasn’t technically finished yet. so i pushed ahead with the help of charlie vazquez & “tada!” “when the city sleeps” was finished by jan. 1st. 2012.

Q. Anything else you want our audience to know about you?

A. I love pizza (i’ve eaten it in 35 different cities), gin & tonics (i have converted people into fans), i write in lower case almost 99% of the time & started using & instead of the word and (because it is overly used), i like long walks on broadway, vests, guitars, get my tattoos done at liquid skin studios on 204th & sherman (plug) & hope nothing but the best for the uptown collective, you wonderful people do wonderful work

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When The City Sleeps by Bonafide Rojas

The beauty of documenting is that it is a weapon against misconception. There exists a distinction between Bonafide Rojas’ New York & its popularized identity. Rojas’ love & laments are steeped in stark realism, the loneliness of being, & an observation of the dismantled facade of the city.

Every city block has an enchantment to it & he is drawn to its story. Rojas have absorbed the suffering of every brick & never lost belief of its beauty, even through the trials of the everyday. Rojas is a quintessential New Yorker & it has given him the chance to observe a living organism build & transform itself.

Continuing in the tradition of Whitman, Crane, Lorca, & Pietri, he writes to document the city’s wonders, brilliance & shocking tales. The love affair he has with New York is another story to push into the concrete. “When The City Sleeps” is his offering to a city & its constant inspiration.

Publication Date: Jan 01 2012

ISBN/EAN13: 0615581692 / 9780615581699

Page Count: 158

Binding Type: US Trade Paper

Trim Size: 5″ x 8″

Language: English

Color: Black and White

Related Categories: Poetry / Caribbean & Latin American

 

BUY NOW

A poet laureate for all five boroughs

Bonafide Rojas versifies the city that nurtured his talent

BY SARAH K. WILLETS

“When the city sleeps, I watch it, I love it,” says  writer, musician and Nuyorican poet Bonafide Rojas. And in his new book “When the City Sleeps,” he documents it, too, from the Grand Concourse in the Bronx to the Staten Island Ferry. (Photo: Jeanne Noonan, NYDN)

In honor of the book, Rojas will host a series of parties, all free and open to the public. The first of these was held on Tuesday night at Camaradas El Barrio in Harlem; the next will be in May.

Rojas calls the collection of poems “a thank you to the city that raised [him]”— but it’s no gushy ode in the style of, say, Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” “It’s a series of love letters and complaints,” he says. “It’s not all shiny.”

For his latest and second book, Rojas, 34, took inspiration from every borough, especially Manhattan and the Bronx, where he grew up in the Grand Concourse area, a once-Jewish enclave that is now almost entirely Hispanic. “I think the Bronx gets a very interesting rap in terms of what it is and where it’s from and the history of it, so one of my jobs is to reinvent its identity as a very magical place,” he says.

The former SLAM THIS! slam poetry champion also took cues from European poets who marvelled at places like Paris. When he started writing it five years ago, “When the City Sleeps” included such cities, but Rojas soon found that New York City provided more than enough material to fill the space between two covers.

“They would talk about how magical their city was and how around every little corner there were pockets of wonder and for me New York has that,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, Rojas describes his poetry as “very New York.” Although he’s full of jokes off-stage, Rojas says it’s a different story when he performs spoken word. “Poetry has always been the art form that I took the most seriously,” says Rojas, who began writing at 17. “If it’s full of sincerity and truth and honesty, people can relate to that. They may not understand it, but they’ll feel the emotion.”

In writing, he combines this reverence for the power of words, his slam poetry background and Puerto Rican heritage with a style called “poetry of witness,” in which authors document everything around them.

As a result, the book’s chapters loosely correspond to New York City’s boroughs: “Dreaming Nuyorican” for the Bronx, “New York State of Mind” for Manhattan, “Holler” for Brooklyn and “Cinderblock Love Letters” for Queens. The fifth chapter, “Notes on a City Than Can (Kill:Love) You,” covers several areas, including Staten Island. “The ferry is a very interesting experience,” says Rojas, though he does most of his own writing on the subwat.

When writing the book, Rojas asked for a little help from the poetry community. Acentos Foundation curator Richard Villar, slam poet and Urban Word NYC Director Michael Cirelli and SoundBites Poetry Festival producer Mahogany L. Browne all contributed introductions to the book, while novelist Charlie Vázquez helped him edit it.

Rojas immediately thought of those who contributed to his book when was recently asked to curate an event for El Museo del Barrio on the upper East Side, and decided to get them all together for an edition of the museum’s monthly Speak Up! event. Inspired by the group, he landed on the theme of strengthening communities through art, naming the event “The Word is Our Weapon,” a title he borrowed from a biography of Zapatista leader Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

“Every writer in the show, I have a huge amount of respect for in terms of their writing ability, in terms of their work ethic, in terms of what they do in their communities,” says Rojas, who also wanted to thank the poets for their support throughout his career. He’s known each of them for at least five years. Villar and Vázquez, among others, read at Tuesday’s party.

And although he finds publishing a book a feat worth celebrating, Rojas says the party-planning process has been a little strange. “It’s weird for me because I’m the publisher also, so I have to call everybody and ask them to come.”

But he’s already on to planning the next party and even his next book. Inspired by poet Pablo Neruda, Rojas has been working on a collection of 100 sonnets for the past year and a half which he hopes to release by the end of 2012. Maybe then he’ll get some sleep.