DANSVILLE — Long Island-native and poet Albert Abonado touched the hearts of the community as he opened up about his family at a poetry reading in Dansville ArtWorks on Aug. 24.
Abonado grew up on Long Island with his parents and two little brothers. He has lived the past 15 years in the Rochester area with his wife of several years.
“I have been writing poetry since I was a little kid. I didn’t get published until college,” he said. “I moved to Rochester when my wife got a job up there. There is a good poetry community in Rochester. I teach Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo.”
There are plenty of places to be expressive with your work in the city, but this was Abonado’s first time in the Dansville ArtWorks. He enjoyed all the praise he got for his poetry, and the fact people were listening. In the city a lot of people play on their cellphones, which Abonado thinks is very disrespectful.
Abonado said that most of his poetry is about his family, which is of strong Filipino background. There is a lot of vivid imagery and dream-like sequences in his work.
A couple of Abonado’s favorite inspirations are the poets Li-Young Lee and Denise Duhamel who intertwined comedy and heartbreak in their works.
Abonado works on a radio podcast in Rochester called “Flower City Yawp” that focuses on other poets. This plays on 104.3 FM in Rochester every Thursday from 2 to 3 p.m. You can listen to is on a podcast online as well.
Uncle Manny, World War Two veteran, passed away when Abonado was about 11 years old, and he writes a lot of poems about him. Manny was on the death march after being captured, and his amazing story of survival influences poems.
These poems and one on Abonado’s father really spoke to the audience as a series of “wows” and applause could be heard at the end.
Abonado had heard that poets write because language is power, and this struck a chord with him.
“I don’t speak my Filipino language, so I am not aware of the power that language has,” he said. “Being a poet has helped me shape my relationship with language.”
Abonado had written a poem called “Someday I’ll love Albert Abonado” and this resonated as a letter to himself. It is a poem about how he handles his heritage.
“Poetry is the one thing I can always count on,” he said. “It is the one thing that has always come back over the course of my life. I feel like poetry chose me.”
Abonado said that if his future children want to be poets someday he will tell them to embrace failure and rejection as part of the process to being on that journey. It is not all about success and riches in this life.