cover image Where a Nickel Costs a Dime

Where a Nickel Costs a Dime

Willie Perdomo. W. W. Norton & Company, $14.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-393-31383-3

Perdomo, a regular performer at Manhattan's Nuyorican Poets Cafe, is a scruffy organizer of his experience, throwing his poetics together tenement style. In the irresistible, high-spirited ""Nigger-Reecan Blues,"" he insists, ""Yo soy Boricua! Yo soy Africano! I ain't/ lyin'. Pero mi pelo is kinky y curly y mi skin no es negro pero it can pass . . ."" Drawing on rap, jazz, Langston Hughes and the rhythms of the streets, this collection bristles with congas, timbales, police sirens and wino oracles, ""singing a celebration of the island/ that some of us will never see."" In poems that are scalding, toxic and dizzying, Perdomo reminds us that there is something wrong when feeling joy suggests mangled sanity: ""I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I noticed I went to more funerals than parties this summer."" (Feb.)