Patrick Rosal

Award-winning author and riveting performer, Patrick Rosal thrills with his speed and tenderness and daring. Political and personal are inextricably twined in poems that can’t help singing, shocking, instructing. Blending a New Jersey childhood with his Filipino heritage, he brings irrepressible heart and intelligence to tales of love, violence, and identity. Junot Diaz pronounced Rosal’s thrilling debut, Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive, “a book from whose pages you’ll emerge shaken, heartbroken, annealed, made new.”

Publishers Weekly described My American Kundiman, his second collection, as “fast-paced and self-assured,” noting that it reflects “a mélange of precedents—Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, a bevy of hip-hop artists, and Filipino. . . traditions from which he takes his unusual title. A kundiman is either a song of unrequited love or a coded song of political protest, dating from the American occupation. The poems in Rosals’s most recent book, Boneshepherds, similarly embody the fierce stories and rhythms of the streets but, as Terrance Hayes observes, are “laced with a hopefulness born not just of Patrick Rosal’s tremendous gifts as a poet, but of his humanity.”

The son of immigrants, Rosal is a life-long amateur musician, an old-school b-boy and DJ. In the late 80s and early 90s, he produced music for Metropolitan Recording Corporation, working with acts like April Kelly, Laissez Faire, and Joey Gold. While he worked in television, video, and corporate communications, he continued practice as an amateur musician and composer, writing and producing themes and music beds for local-origination magazine and news shows as well as national public service announcements.

Rosal is a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award, the Global Filipino Literary Award, and the Members’ Choice Award, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines. He has taught widely at the college level, as well as conducting workshops in Alabama prisons through Auburn University, high school workshops through the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Urban Word NYC. Currently he is a member of the faculty at Rutgers University-Camden’s MFA program as well as Drew University’s Low-Residency MFA program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation.

Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2012


I deserve nothing but rivers
stirred in ginger
the Ganges swept west
your mother’s tit
I’ll take a beggar’s dime
I’ll take his stagger
I’ll take burlap and cashmere
the slack rope of bound-up
barges & yachts
I’ll take minnows & caviar
palmshacks & mansions
I’ll open your sister’s
mouth Watch me
take away her breath

From My American Kundiman

Meditations on the Eve of My Niece’s Birth

for Renata Mimi

Who sow buckshot glitter from Cape May to Arthur Kill
Who weave rush-hour Kyrie from lanes of masonry
and steel Who stammer boldfaced gospel on Newark
subway steam What rot feed one man Who record
his rasp Who transcribe his song Who unknot his
gut What spectral redshift beacons ancient
boogie-on-down What heats the heart’s
enthalpic pith Who stop the clock—
submit to speed of light When
have I listened—child—How
will I begin When shall I
open my mouth
and let half
the world
fall in.

From My American Kundiman

Dream of the Girl with Eight Limbs

Hands to cover the puny heart
Hands to pound that muscle back to its beastly life

Hands to write these lies
Hands to cross them out
Hands to lug the goat by rope to the bloody block

Hands to sting
Hands to coax the first lick of honey from your hips
Hands to cut gristle from gut
Hands to murder time
Hands to tell it
Hands to behemoth
Hands to sting
Hands to tie a perfect knot around the throat
Hands to lead the rest of the body blind

Excerpt from Bonesheperds