Dona Julia: A Collection of Published Poems
This third book of poetry from Alberto O. Cappas explores the numerous conditions and situations that many Puerto Rican immigrants face on a daily basis as they co-exist in New York City. A bureaucrat by day (director of Community Affairs for the city's Human Resources Administration), poet and community activist by night, Cappas devotes most of his life to encouraging young Latinos to pursue a better way of life. Through the magic and beauty of words, he shows us the good, the bad, the ugly, and the pretty things of life. With a selection of over 40 poems in this new book, Cappas' poetry traces the hopes and problems of Puerto Ricans living on the island as well as those living in the northern continent searching for the American dream. But the reality and messages of his poems, in many cases, can be applied to any group of people or individuals.
The title piece of the collection, DoÃ±a Julia, is a poem about a woman who in desperation commits suicide and leaves a note stating, "One way or the other, I'm going back to Puerto Rico." Other favorites include Aguacate Power, depicting what Cappas calls "unconscious Puerto Ricans;" A Distant Despair is a snapshot of images of what life is like for the tenants of a particular building in the city; Milagros, A Love Story, is a poem about a beautiful young girl who at 15 years old had dreams and goals and by her 19th birthday was selling her wasted body on 42nd Street to buy the American dream. Suicide of a Puerto Rican JÃbaro is a piece that explores the alienation faced by the immigrant entering the cold, foreign land of hope. Cappas' poetas are like short stories full of characters and situations we can all relate to in one way or another in a thought-provoking manner.
Alberto O. Cappas, a Puerto Rican poet, writer and thinker, has captured and is able to transmit the soul of being BORICUA with his latest work, Dona Julia And Other Selected Poems (112 Pages), published by AuthorHouse.
As the global village prepares herself to embrace the last trimester of 2002, a year after that somber morning of September 11, 2002, I read Alberto's latest collection of poems amidst the noisy and tranquility of Central Park's 59th Street and Fifth Avenue Pond. Amidst the escape of a jungle made of concrete, smog and stress, I read and savored his poems slowly...Alberto's latest collection of poems are electrifying and a wake-up call to all New Yorkers -- not just BORICUAS.
I heard, one after the other, the voices of BORICUAS in the mainland calling things, events, places and people what they are-with the charm and openness of el Jibaro (countryman) of Puerto Rican mountains. Objects and players are what they are---without masks and presumptions. His poetry is amazingly vivid and extremely descriptive. In "Her Borinquen" he shares the ingenuity and beauty of being a Boricua in the United States:
Dona Rivera bought the moon and the best part is that it is tax-free...
The essence of the Puerto Rican experience against the callousness and coldness of the mainland experience, only in America someone will sell the moon. Back in Puerto Rico the moon belongs to everyone: the jibaros, the coqui, and of course all Puerto Ricans. Her Borinquen captures the Puerto Rican experience versus the cold Corporate America reality. Corporate tendencies reflected in the way we live, where greed and dishonesty rule.
Poem after poem characters become real people, fiction is a concern of Hollywood. Alberto really captures and shares the urban BORICUA experience in his Images...
Urban concrete jungle
Far from tropical images for tropical people
Visible to the gringo eye
Gilbert exploring with coke
His introduction to
Overdosed into wasteland
"What a story!"
Every poem in his Dona Julia And Other Selected Poems represents the BORICUA experience in the mainland, where despite the colonial experience and presence of Uncle Sam, many Puerto Ricans work hard to cherish, treasure and preserve the pride, and joy of being as BORICUA as El Coqui. Cappas and his Ganas capture the warrior spirit in every word.
Alberto's work reflect the angst of being Boricua in a non-Puerto Rican Universe, where humans are not seen nor treated as equals. Thus, being Superheroes is out of the question. His To the Batman Man evokes the pain of being regarded as a commonwealth citizen:
It's time you open your eyes
To the world and see for yourself
I know that you can hear
But refuse to listen
I know that you can feel
But refuse to touch...
He does the same for the female struggle and the Puerto Rican women experience in Lady in Red:
Haunted with painful thoughts
Darkness can not conceal your light.
Read them, live them, enjoy them and most importantly share them. To me, particularly Dona Julia evokes a reflective soul with a poignant mind. A humanist calls for generations to follow in the voice of Alberto O. Cappas. His voice, vision and passion transcends race, gender, and affiliation barriers. There is nothing, which escapes him or alludes him. Cappas and his Dona Julia And Other Selected Poems reflects the whole world of being BORICUA, an urban warrior, a hummingbird of hope, dreams and love.
Dona Julia And Other Selected Poems is a must have and a gem to share.
If more public officials and politicians could write poetry as visceral as the Human Resources Administration's Director of Community Affairs Alberto Cappas, the world would indeed be in a different place.
Cappas' third book of poetry, DoÃ±a Julia, explores the complexities of everyday life for the Puerto Rican immigrant in New York City. The poems are sometimes touching and nostalgic, sometimes painful and alienating, as Cappas speaks to the ways in which poverty and racism impact the lives of immigrants who try to incorporate the supposed American Dream into their realities--and their varying degrees of success and failure in doing so.
In "A Distant Despair," Cappas describes "the Building/With the graffiti/'Viva Puerto Rico Libre'/And other declarations/Woman and her three children/are evicted for not paying the rent." In the same building lives a Mrs. Garcia, who is "glued to the window/Looking from corner to corner/For stories to talk about and invent." The poem is filled with images of what life is like for the tenants of this building. Its beauty (and that of Cappas' writing) lies in its ability to cause a tension for the reader, to leave us torn between those images that evoke a feeling of warmth for the people of the community and the ones that inspire anger, or sometimes hopelessness, over the living conditions that create such poverty.
It is this sort of complexity that keeps DoÃ±a Julia from being a book about feeling pity for the people and places it portrays. The book's characters are implicated in their own madness, too. In "Aguacate Power," Cappas shows his frustration with what he calls "unconscious Puerto Ricans" who "have made it in the USA/They exist without the ganas/Without a place in the sun/They sing songs for the politicians/With nothing to offer them in turn for their dedication/They do not know the harm they generate."
The standout poem in this collection is the title piece, "DoÃ±a Julia." The poem is about a woman who commits suicide, and leaves a note that baffles police, stating, "One way or the other, I'm going back to Puerto Rico." The poem starkly describes what led the woman to this place. "Do--a Julia/Committed suicide last night/Cause the welfare department/ Demanded too many documents she did not/know existed." It's quite the indictment coming from an employee of HRA.
In a city used to low voter turnout in most elections, where people feel increasingly alienated from their political and community leaders, it is refreshing to find someone working in the system who is sympathetic to the lives of ordinary citizens. Cappas' poetry, never overly sentimental, demonstrates both a talent for the written word and a deep understanding of people, their communities and the larger institutions that influence their lives. The next time you go to the polls, don't elect a politician; elect a poet.