Room 220 is pleased to present a Post-Brunch Salon featuring poet and performance artist José Torres-Tama from 3 -5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.). The event will celebrate the release of a new book of Torres-Tama’s poetry, Immigrant Dreams and Alien Nightmares, which collects 25 years of the artist’s work.
Immigrant Dreams and Alien Nightmares is an expansive travelogue of sorts, chronicling in verse its author’s journeys from Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he was born, through a childhood and adolescence in New York City and Jersey City, to New Orleans, where Torres-Tama has lived since 1984. On the way, the poems, mostly composed for performance, veer and slow-dissolve between English and Spanish, the real and surreal, exploring the psychic, physical, and open wounds of an immigrant balancing two cultures as a “Permanent Resident Alien” navigating GringoLandia. Inspired by writers like Ntozake Shange, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Martín Espada, Torres-Tama challenges the United States to realize its mythic ideals as a beacon of democracy.
Torres-Tama is an accomplished writer, performer, and visual artist. Since 1995, he has toured his genre-bending solo performances nationally and internationally, at venues including the Nuyorican Poets Café, Diverseworks in Houston, Highways Performance Space in Los Angeles, and many others in London, Liverpool, Mexico City, Poland, Slovenia, and beyond. He has been an NEA fellow and a Louisiana Theater Fellow, and has received support from the National Performance Network to develop such works as ALIENS Taco Truck Theater, a food-truck-turned-mobile-stage, and ALIENS, IMMIGRANTS, AND OTHER EVILDOERS, his sci-fi Latino solo noir.
In 2009, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art published a collection of Torres-Tama’s visual art, New Orleans Free People of Color and their Legacy, a series of expressionistic pastel portraits on paper that celebrate 18th- and 19th-century Creoles of color in New Orleans.
His poetry and other writing has appeared in journals such as Exquisite Corpse, Double Dealer, and Black Magnolias; in anthologies such as Words on Fire by Think Tank Press and From a Bend in the River edited by Kalamu ya Salaam; and on PBS.org. He is currently working with the University of Lafayette Press on a collection, Hard Living in the Big Easy: Latinos and the Post-Katrina Reconstruction of New Orleans.
As always, this event is free and open to the public. Complimentary libations will be on hand (for those of you who want to start—or keep—drinking in the afternoon), though donations are strongly suggested.