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Tara Bracco
Poetic People Power
Tara Bracco, author
For 20 years, the New York City-based spoken word group Poetic People Power has creatively explored social and political topics, offering insights and solutions to issues that affect our everyday lives and the world around us. This debut anthology invites readers to explore three of their shows about environmental heroes, women’s voices, and human rights abuses. The book features work by 12 poets: Bogar Alonso, Suzen Baraka, Tara Bracco, Shanelle Gabriel, Philippe Javier Garcesto, Karla Jackson-Brewer, Angela Kariotis, Shane Michael Manieri, Shetal Shah, Natalia Vargas-Caba, Nabil Viñas, and Kesav Wable.
Bracco’s bold collection of performance-ready verse from the collective Poetic People Power (now celebrating its 20th year) is a resonant call to action from an ambitious group of writers and activists who believe “another world is possible with poetry.” Each of the P3 “show”s here offers a series of spoken-word poems with stage directions that address an urgent issue, like the climate crisis, sexism, and human rights abuses across the globe. Powered by a collective intention to transform readers “into [...] change agent[s] in the world,” these pieces focus, in language of uplift and outrage, on pollution in marginalized communities, persecution of LGBTQ people in Uganda, food scarcity, sex trafficking, the lingering effects of colonialism and many more social, political, and environmental problems.

While the page can’t capture the vibrancy and artistry with which these pieces can be performed onstage—readers can bear witness to P3’s explosive showmanship in online videos—this collection performs the welcome service of expanding access to the poets’ work outside of New York City playhouses. However, they certainly do not lack urgency. The first show, “The Eco Rise,” highlights “environmental heroes” without international recognition, like Peggy Shepard, who spoke out against the “low-income minorities being disproportionately affected,” by pollution caused by public transit in New York City. Because of her, every “NYC bus was replaced with a hybrid.”

“While We Were Sleeping,” the collection’s third show, focuses on human rights atrocities being committed in Uganda, the Philippines, and New York, among several others, and doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions of the sexual and physical violence being inflicted upon people in these regions. Without comprehensive media coverage of these events, the poets write, “while we were sleeping, others were suffering,” but the power of poetry is that it awakens poets and readers alike to insights unknown. Readers seeking a collection of unflinching activism poetry will find much that inspires and provokes in the collective’s heroic first collection, edited by founder and artistic director Bracco.

Takeaway: Powerful collection of spoken-word poetry from a New York collective

Comparable Titles: Terrence Hayes’ Watch Your Language, and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A