To Merge among the Greater We: what Miguel Algarín taught me about cosmic dancing
Miguel Algarín was a complicated introduction to an emerging poet, although this recollection will be parsed into a parable through much older eyes—having emerged, I am here on the surface, years later, imagining layers through much younger eyes.
This memory takes place during the creative crucible of The East Village circa ’91-98—my perception as a newbie in the throes of searching for a voice, was that Miguel could parlay vulnerability into a gift for comfort, a charisma to attract the seeker. At the time, my questions of identity were consumed by making, so experimenting with language and form was my play.
The question I toyed with, that being whether or not Miguel understood my work (whatever that meant), was a direct challenge to my own placement and search for acceptance. Was I making enough difficulty and challenge in my own work, to bring eyes back to language? Of course, he received whatever he needed from anyone else's need, realizing now, that the poet's understanding is to blend into purity what's possible with play (note Nuyo alliteration). My wondering whether or not anyone “got me” was in truth a question for me, whether I was the one who “got” what I was doing, a lifelong quest for a poet's infinite encircling.
My instinct for his bravura was to absorb that energetic quality of sensuality as a lifestyle, to embrace the absorption that life had to offer—a poetic absorption to eroticize language as a sensory experience. I think this is what compelled me towards his vision, his aesthetic as a poet, not a human, not even a Nuyorican, there was no genealogy to his identity for me. While fully Latino and soaked in Hispanic pride, his aura was emblematic of flesh for me, more than nationality.
Indeed, as an adventurer nomad poet geek, I suppose I was living through a vicarious symbol of emergence, through his work. As I was traveling those early Nuyorican steps, I may have had dreams, but I wasn't awake. In my hetero id, I wasn't interested in the other sex, but the other tongue. The one between identities, between Spanish English yes, but more interested between creatures, between what could be and what was given, between the twilight hieroglyphics of street and beyond.
Between street and beyond was Miguel to the core. He was always intrigued by cosmic possibility, a mutual dynamic we shared through the various support mechanisms he afforded me via the Cafe, class visits, art openings. He gave me relevance into my possibilities, just like the neighborhood itself, the chance for invention was not obscured but championed. The role of the accomplice is to lay groundwork for what hasn't happened yet, Miguel was adept at functioning as both mentor and accomplice. This fell in-step with my then explorations into performance improvisation. I was in a circle of musicians who embodied their instruments as extensions of vibrational selves—the alignment of auras on a given plane, manifest by the pulsed evaporation of stars within a lifetime's moment, made it clear that it was my time to have met these incredible collaborators.
Enter Sean G. Meehan, a drummer beyond mine, or anyone's, years. He would play the idea of the sound, not just the drums, his hearing was an instrument of its own, a landscape I could easily get lost in. I first saw him with a cellist wrapped around his body, holding her cello and playing it, while he walked across the floor playing his drumsticks in the air. The evolution of my performance career with Sean as fulcrum to my aesthetic, is an entire book worthy of exploration. For now, let's say Sean and I had established something beyond chemistry whenever we improvised, whether on stage or the Williamsburg waterfront. After becoming comfortable in recording studios, and being continually inspired by Miguel's presence and voice, we both had the idea to try and record with Miguel as a trio.
Edwin Torres is the author of twelve poetry collections, including Quanundrum: I will be your many angled thing (Roof Books), The Animal's Perception of Earth (DoubleCross Press), Xoeteox: the infinite word object (Wave), Ameriscopia (University of Arizona Press), and editor of The Body in Language: An Anthology (Counterpath Press). He has performed his bodylingo poetics worldwide and has taught his workshops, Brainlingo and Feel Recordings, at Naropa University, UPenn, The Poetry Project, and Liminal Lab. Anthologies include: New Weathers: Poetics from the Naropa Archives, Postmodern American Poetry Vol 2, American Poets in the 21st Century: The Poetics of Social Engagement, Kindergarde: Avant-garde Poems, Plays, Stories, and Songs for Children, and Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. A native New Yorker, he is currently living in Beacon, NY.