Riding the Big Destiny: Adrian Castro

Adrian Castro is a poet, performer, and interdisciplinary artist. Born in Miami from Caribbean heritage which has provided fertile ground for the rhythmic Afro-Caribbean style in which he writes and performs. He is the author of Cantos to Blood & Honey (Coffee House Press,1997), Wise Fish (Coffee House Press, 2005), and has been published in several literary anthologies including Conjunctions, Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets, Little Havana Blues, A Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, Step Into A World: A Global Anthology of New Black Literature, Renaming Ecstacy: Latino Writings on the Sacred. He is the recipient of the State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, the NALAC Fund for the Arts Individual Fellowship, NewForms Florida, the Eric Mathieu King award from the Academy of American Poets, and several commissions from Miami Light Project, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and the Miami Art Museum.

He has performed throughout the country in venues such as the Taos Poetry Circus, Bumbershoot Festival, Miami Book Fair International, Nuyorican Poets’ Café, and several universities, as well as with many dancers and actors including Chuck Davis and African American Dance Ensemble, Heidi Duckler and Collage Dance, and Keith Antar Mason & the Hittite Empire. Adrian Castro is also a Babalawo, herbalist, and acupuncturist.

Riding the Big Destiny

Articulating the search for a cohesive Afro-Caribbean-American identity, I honor myth on one hand and history on the other. I am a poet, performer, and interdisciplinary artist. Born in Miami in 1967, just a few years after the city’s first large scale Cuban migration experience, it is a place which has provided fertile ground for the rhythmic Afro-Latino style in which I write and perform. I address the migratory experience from Africa to the Caribbean to North America, and the eventual clash of cultures. A characteristic of my work is a circular motion of rhythm, theme, tone, subject matter, style, and cultural history that gives rise to a fresh illuminating archetypal poetry. These themes reach their climax in their declamación – the call-and-response rhythm of performance with a whole lot of tún-tún ka-ka pulse.

In my first book, Cantos to Blood & Honey, many poems had a performance quality. They focused on the migration of Latinos to the U.S.: the music, language, and dissonance. During these years I focused on forging my performance skills. I toured extensively throughout the U.S. and collaborated with interdisciplinary artists, dancers, painters, and sculptors, including Eduoard Duval-Carrie, James Herring, and Charo Oquet for a grant winning poetry/performance installation titled Ogun: Iron, Conflict, and Creativity. I was also commissioned several times by Miami Light Project and the Miami Art Museum to write poems, direct workshops, and perform.

During this time till about 2003, I worked on poems that were included in my second book, Wise Fish: Tales in 6/8 Time. Most of the poems in this book concerned themselves with similar themes as in my first. However, the Caribbean takes the stage as the principle place and point of departure. The New York Times Book Review selected Wise Fish as an Editor’s Choice saying, “Sinuous, syncopated verses about the Caribbean melting pot…even a cursory glance suggests his poems—which seem to be trying to dance off the page…would truly come alive on the stage. “Wise Fish” is a serious and seriously enjoyable contribution to our flourishing Latino literature.”

In my latest book Handling Destiny (Coffee House Press 2009), many of the poems also map the diasporic triangle of Africa, the Caribbean, and contemporary North America, the migratory experience (forced or otherwise), and the geography of these experiences. However, in this one, the spiritual, physical, and psychological place is West Africa, specifically Nigeria. With Handling Destiny, we return to the beginning, the root of so much Caribbean and North American culture. In effect these three books form a trilogy.

Since 1994 I have been rigorously studying Ifá divinational poetry, and in 1998 I was formally initiated as an Ifá priest and herbalist, or Babalawo. Babalawo are priests who specialize in Ifá divination and philosophy.

Briefly, the Ifá literary corpus is divided into 256 sections called Odu Ifá. Each of these sections contains countless poems, narratives, incantations, medicines, and rituals. Babalawo are considered the elder priests in the Yoruba religion due to our many years of erudition. Babalawo also incorporate the use of herbs, stones, animals, and other elements from the natural world in our daily practice. Frequently, poems and incantations derived from the 256 Odu Ifá are chanted to activate the spiritual power of these ingredients. According to Afro-Cuban and Yoruba culture, words are also imbued with ashé, divine energy. Much of my work derives from this philosophy of activating power and change through poems and incantations.

In Handling Destiny the second section comprises of sixteen poems from which the book takes its title. Each of these poems articulate intrinsic aspects of one’s destiny—i.e. place of birth, parents, children, lovers, spouses, careers, legacy/inheritances (material, emotional, spiritual). These sixteen poems are inspired and evolve from the first sixteen Odu Ifá.

This last book, Handling Destiny, has been an effort to reconcile what I consider to be my destiny—the devotion to the word spoken, sung, written, and its spiritual, ultimate power.


USpeak: Adrian Castro

Open Verse and Story Performance is proud to feature Adrian Castro, who is what writer Campbell McGrath says is "fast becoming our foremost poet of the Caribbean, that crossroad of the Americas whose multiple cultures and languages he knows and speaks so fluently."

Castro debuts his newest book of poetry, Handling Destiny (Coffee House Press), as poets, writers and musicians of UM step up to the open mic on Friday, October 2, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Oasis Deli Café at the Whitten University Center.

USpeak will be taped and broadcast by WVUM, UM's student radio station, and is sponsored by the Creative Writing Program, UM Citizen's Board and Auxiliary Services. The event is free and open to the public. For directions and/or more information, please call 305-284-2988 or visit our Web Site at www.as.miami.edu/english/creativewriting.

Host:    University of Miami Creative Writing Program
Date:    Friday, October 2, 2009
Time:    6:00pm - 8:30pm
Location:    Oasis Deli Cafe
Street:    Whitten University Center


Fly Girl said…
A very inspiring poet.
He is Fly Girl & his performances are great!


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