cover image The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon

Willie Perdomo. Penguin, $18 (66p) ISBN 978-0-14-312523-5

Dedicated to his uncle Pedro, who played percussion on studio albums by salsa great Charlie Palmieri, Perdomo (Smoking Lovely) opens his third collection with a salvo of sonnets and creation stories that try to imagine how his uncle came to inhabit the book's eponymous nickname (itself a nod to a story from the legendary Nuyorican Poets Caf%C3%A9 of a homeless poet with the same name). Written as a series of "takes," these poems ask questions about Shorty's life and evade themselves with flare and a smirk when they answer. "How did Shorty play it again?" Perdomo writes. "Like his birth certificate/ was lost forever." Though these poems can stand on the strength of their cadence and vocabulary alone%E2%80%94with their "salseros, the real-live soneros,/ the palo-players that gang-busted/ dancehalls with fish-crate yamb%C3%BA"%E2%80%94Perdomo broadens our understanding of his uncle by including a series of monologues in which he speaks candidly about Rose, a woman he loved "the way we tremble / in the glow of dead ass truth."(Rose herself is given a chance to speak in a series of epistles) With a selection of endnotes that doubles as a primer in Puerto Rican arts and culture, Perdomo's work is a sprawling and ambitious take on death and the concept of legacy. (Apr.)