I AM A POET, TOO
BY ROSS REAGAN
In my opinion, Bridge & Tunnel is not a one-woman show. After watching Milicent Wright for ten seconds, a multicultural music box opens up and you see a performance of fifteen characters all vying for a chance to share memories of their homeland. She interacts with the audience intimately, humorously, and quite frankly, effortlessly.
A few notable characters to watch out for:
Juan Jose. He is Mexican American. A pretty passionate guy, all around, who glides in his wheelchair, painting a beautiful romantic tragedy: “The Mexican.” Veronica is his love and he considers himself lucky as he says, “We found our love in slow motion” and compares his journey to the movies—with action, peril, and ripe dreams from California.
Yajaira. She is eleven and no doubt the cutest poet at the reading. She walks with determination, plopping each foot down deliberately across the stage despite her nervousness. Her pink, puffy jacket and giant binder adds to her exasperated expressions as she recites her piece: “I Don’t Want to Grow Up.” Her truth is simple, but nonetheless inspiring. She doesn’t want to hate her job, always think she looks fat, and be scared like her father who is serving in Baghdad. She simply wants to “stop time and keep being a kid.”
Mrs. Ling. She is Chinese, but most importantly a mother. She walks slowly with short, staccato steps up to the mic. Before she begins, she adjusts her glasses and sets her glass of water down. The account of her daughter magically morphs into an elegant poem of heartache and poignancy. She comes to acceptance with her daughter’s love for another woman despite her previous hesitation and bias. Her question is frank, but sharp: “So why immigration cannot learn that all love is important? That’s what I’ve I have learned.”
I just wanted to reiterate that we are still talking about Milicent here. These are just a couple inspiring performances, but the range of her characterization is something you just have to sit back and enjoy.
And this richly diverse repertoire was created by playwright Sarah Jones just over ten years ago.
As the exposed brick and railings in this dejected warehouse created a minimal, exposed view of the stage, a truth emerged from these vulnerable character’s points of view.
A banner hangs proudly in the back: “I.A.M.A.P.O.E.T.T.O.O.” The acronym stands for “Immigrant And Multiculturalist American Poets or Enthusiasts Traveling Toward Optimistic Openness.” As I heard each story unfold, I felt included in every journey. I could relate to their struggles. The whole idea of poetry is to breathe life into words, and I felt that each character had a truth that sparked a little breath inside of me.
By the end, I drove home thinking about the meaning of the word “immigrant” and about my own heritage. Did my ancestors have to suffer? What sacrifices did they have to make? What stories could they tell if they were on that stage?
The truth is everyone here was an immigrant at one point in time. Our history here in the United States is embedded in rich diversity. Although the dialogue we have may not always be positive, just attempting to bring these stories to life and onto the stage is giving voices to speakers who may not have a chance otherwise.
I do not know if the poetry in my journal will ever amount to anything groundbreaking, but after tonight “I AM A POET TOO” echoes in the back of my mind and I feel more inclined to speak about my own journey.