EVERY CHILD IS BORN A POET: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas

The Poems


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Hartford, CT

I just started reading Down These Mean Streets last night and I could not put the book down. I've always been a reader, my best books have been non-fiction about real urban city life. I've always been inspired to write a memoir. I started and occasionally I'll write in it but I haven't completed it. I also used to write songs and poems. Here is one poem:
Every day that passes
As time goes on
I feel that maybe I lost the essence of time
Time passes, life passes and nothing is ever the same
We try our best to turn back the hands of time
But in our busy lives we don't realize that time has doubled forward without any possible retraction
What could we do to stop the hands of time?
What could we do to slow it down?
All we can do is use our time wisely
Life is short, we don't realize until the months and years seem to fly by
Than we wonder what happened to our lives
Why didn't we live our lives to the fullest?
Time goes by and we say ´┐Żah I'll have time tomorrow´┐Ż
Why save for tomorrow what you can do today?
What if I don't see tomorrow?
What if you don't see tomorrow?
Then what?
So instead of having to ask myself those questions, I'll do today what I can do tomorrow.

I'm not a poet but I do like to write and I do feel much better after I finish. I hope you enjoyed my words as much as I'm enjoying your book. Take Care you are an inspiration to us Puerto Ricans. Thanks!

ricky johnson
clearwater florida
I think life is poetry because we live by words me my self i one day wonna be a rapper because i have a talent I love to wright poetry and i think I have something special I can share with the world because nomater what we go through life goes on and we never stop getting old so if theres a better life out there for a gheeto child like me I wonna see that life one day and enjoy better things than guns and drugs I wonna live free so one day I can say to my self I made it in this cold world so I think poetry is very special because it brings out the woders in life.

Bronx NY
I love Piri's works. In doing some rescearch doug I found myself stumped when looking for more infomation on him. I happy to say that I did watch the special and I did read two of his book but its still isn't enough. If by chance you can fill me in I would be very so happy. Thanks Jenny

Leonardo Mendoza
Tijuana, Baja California
I think that El Señor Thomas was and still is very much on the vanguard of city life poetry; I my self am a novice poet, and i too, think that every child is a poet, my deepest regards to El Señor Thomas, because without the type of POV poetry that the this MASTER of the URBAN written word has done, there would be no hope for us yongsters trying to make a lifetime out a days hours, i must say that for that Señor Thomas, I am very greatfull, no, I am greatfull for you're inspiration, thank you!!

Brooklyn, New York
God Bless the powers that be at PBS for allowing us to view this program!!!!!!!!!!! God Bless Piri Thomas for his continuous giving, sharing and helping of others. This program should be viewed by young people of all races, of all income levels.

honolulu hawaii
Aloha, Thank goodness we have PBS to bring us biographies and stories that are worthy of our viewing. Piri Thomas is one of thousands of great artists that we should be experiencing. He reminds us of the creative spirit within us all. The pen (or voice) are definitely mightier than the sword.


This movie speaks to everyone no matter what the color of skin. I would like to thank Mr.Thomas for all he has done for opening the minds and hearts of many. 4/12/04
Soledad Santiago
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Piri was the poet of my youth. I remember like yesterday placing Rocky, my new baby, in the center of his and Betty Elder's bed while we jammed together - Piri, Betty, Lefty and I. Betty and Lefty have passed but like Piri I'm still here. Please pass this message on to him. Oye bro, echa me un grito!

Down These Mean Streets like Claude Browne's Manchild in the Promised Land continue to inspire generation upon generation. Viva Piri. Punto

Soledad Santiago
Streets of Fire

Jesse Candelario
Queens Village, New York
I was flicking through the channels on last time before lights out in my dorm room until i saw and heard something about Puerto Rico. All of a sudden i took notice of a man speaking about his story of struggle with defeat and his strength to rise up against the odds society has built to hold him down and that has held his people at a stance where self love doesnt seem to creap in through the cracks. I thought of one book. A book that has given me the strength to become an English creative writing major at Hofstra University through the blessings of the NOAH Program, Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas. As i continue to watch, i wondered if this man was Mr Piri Thomas himself being that i caught the show after its introduction. I was appealed by the brothers story, as i was to the novel. I told myself, "this has to be Thomas... it has to be." And sure enough it was. I told myself, "oh man Jesse you cant turn it off now papa." I thought of a conversation i had a couple of days ago when someone asked me what is the title of my favorite book and i answered immediately with Down These Mean Streets, Piri Thomas . Thomas ws able to create a piece that is filled with an unlifting connection to his people, and i dont mean the Puerto Rican people. I mean the people that struggle with societies ability to strip identity and self love through an array of obstacles. I was born and raised in Brooklyn New York and i have witnessed many of my boys turn away from there potential and gifts in exchange for the life of dealing and using, fighting for a cause that stood for nothing, and creating traps out of the blessing of choice. I am a senior at Hofstra University currently working on a novel, hoping to create a similar, if not grander, connection to my people.

Douglas Vergara
Bristol, VA
WOW! Unfortunately, I only caught the last half hour or so of this fantastic program. Being a Nuyorican myself, I sure could identify... I was born and raised in New York, 1947-1966, when I joined the Air Force, in part, to escape the streets of Washington Heights. Had I not, I would probably be in prison or dead. The first thing I did, after watching this program was to rush out to find "Down These Mean Streets". The local book store here in Bristol Virginia will have to special order it. Is there any way to buy it from PBS, and is there a video (VHS, or DVD) available for purchase? I could not get enough of this moving and all to familiar experience. I may not be able to write or express myself as well as Piri Thomas, but I can sure feel it in my heart! Thank you, for giving me this opportunity to express myself, and possibly the chance to purchase the book and/or video. PUNTO

Alberto Jaramillo
Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico
i'm sorry about my words, i dont write in english but, the feelings are in all and each man, im a 30 years old mexican doctor, and i see the sick people and some times is what you do with your body wath is bad and i tell storyes for the cure and culture of this people, and mr piri inspires what i can say to this pacients, i do my work for help a little to my people , i hope i can do more for them, thank you mr piri thomas and mr jonathan robinson, and god bless you.... the mexican doctor alberto jaramillo

Christopher Bell
New York, N.Y.
Down These Mean Streets is still a pertinent book in the history and culture of East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, El Barrio. It is like fine wine. A classic that gets better with age.

CBell, Author of Images of America-East Harlem

Ricardo Torres
New York, New York
Piri Thomas'life and writings provide much insight into the inner workings of poverty, race, and society in NYC and the US. I read it as a teenager (I'm now 56)and its message pretty much defined how me and my peers were living (at times): the streets, thrill seeking, anger, drugs, and alienation.

Piri's literary style and poetry also appear to have laid the groundwork for that urban NuYorican style so epitomized during the last 30 years at the NuyoRicans Poet's cafe.Que viva Piri!!!

Brooklyn, NY
I saw the film for the last 45 minutes that were left, because I wasn't watching television, my husband was. When I saw the part about identity, it caught my attention and I asked my husband to leave it on channel 13 and we both watched it, unsure what it was about until I continued to watch it. I could identify with the film being a Puerto Rican raised in Brooklyn, NY in the early 1960's (since age 2). I myself wasn't sure that being Puerto Rican could be something to be proud of. My mom was very proud and P.Rican but I felt as a 13 year old around other groups that my nationality was a shameful thing, until I moved to Puerto Rico for about 8 years and saw the positive things about my people and my island. I attended and graduated from High School and attended a year and half in Puerto Rico. I learned more about my culture and how being Puerto Rican wasn't based on how some poor and uneducated Puerto Ricans lived in New York. I returned in 1984 and attended college and became an educator. I now have lots of knowledge about my heritage to pass to young Puerto Ricans and to those non-Puerto Ricans who may try to lower my people as being something negative.

The film did show the ideas some Puerto Ricans had during the 60's, 70's and even 80's about wanting to be considered white and not black, due to that, the fact that the lighter or whiter you looked you then would be accepted by whites in your city. It got to the point that some Puerto Ricans, didn't want to speak or say they were P.R, because they thought it was an embarrassment to be one. Unfortunately, that was ignorance caused by lack of knowledge about the culture and contributions made by Puerto Ricans.

I enjoyed the film and will buy it so I can see it from the beginning. I will try to find the book "Down These Mean Streets", and tell a few Puerto Rican co-workers about the book, especially the English Puerto Rican teacher, so she can expose her students to it.

If it has cursing could the poet bleep or change the curses so his book can be used in NYC Public Schools. I hope this suggestion won't offend Mr. Piri Thomas.

I am glad to see film about topics that tell about Puerto Ricans in NY or the US.

Nereida Millan
Hillsdale, NJ
I just finished watching your documentay on Piri Thomas. Way back then I was Piri's neighbor at 161 E. 103rd Street. My brother who was also brought up in Spanish Harlem writes poetry much like his and has published several books. Like Piri his poetry stems from his pain and his awarenes of life's injustices. My brother suffered many years with manic depression and out of this pain he writes his best poetry. Thank you for reminding me how it was and how far we have come.

Well Done. Punto.

Shakir P
This man is one of the hopes and inspiration for Latino youth and youth all together

D. Santiago
El Barrio
Wow. Just saw your film.
There is alot you said that spoke deeply to me. I am inspired and want to learn more about what you speak of, and your life.

Michelle Sepulveda
New Haven,CT
Piri Thomas's book, Down These Mean Streets, affected my soul as a teen and I'm a forty two year old African American woman. My biracial son (Puerto Rican-African American) read the same book and his soul was affected as well! We spoke at length about Piri's autobiography and bonded through the process. I was grateful that my son and I were able to reach up on a library shelf and find his truth!

Piri Thomas is truely an inspiration for all Latino youth. I'm so glad to see that his story is being told for the world to know, needless to say I'm eagerly waiting this film.

dix hils, ny
Cant wait to see this. Always thought his life story would make an inspirational movie.

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