Roger Bonair-Agard / Poet
Roger Bonair-Agard weaves living, breathing tapestries out of politics and the notion of home; a native of Trinidad and Tobago, Bonair-Agard has lived in Brooklyn for 17 years and his work reflects the struggles of a man in voluntary exile in a conflicted 21st-century America.
A professional performance poet since 1997, Bonair-Agard has appeared three times on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO, performed and facilitated writing and performance workshops at colleges, universities and high schools around the country, and stirred audiences at festivals and concerts from Germany to South Africa to Anchorage, Alaska. He recently opened for calypso legend Shadow for an audience of 2,000 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
He is co-author of Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Press, 2000), and author of Tarnish and Masquerade, published by Cypher Press in April 2006. He is co-founder and artistic director of the louderARTS Project, an organization dedicated to the evolution of poetry through the craft of writing and performance.
Bonair-Agard is also a Cave Canem fellow, studying with such luminaries as Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson, and Cornelius Eady. In 1998, he was named the Nuyorican Poets Café “Fresh Poet of the Year.” That same year, he coached the Nuyorican team to victory in the National Poetry Slam over 44 other teams. The following year he earned the title of National Individual Slam Champion while leading and coaching the New York City louderARTS team to the final four of the National Poetry Slam (out of 48 teams), a feat he repeated in 2000.
While co-curating the louderARTS Reading Serries as a forum to nurture new writing within his community, Bonair-Agard continues to perform and teach throughout the world, leading workshops and conducting performances in major universities, including such outposts as University of Alaska at Anchorage, University of West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and in literary festivals in Heidelberg (Germany), Kingston (Jamaica), Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg (South Africa) and the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival (New Jersey). He has also appeared on The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, Air America, Pacifica Radio’s Beneath the Surface and other national radio programs.
He works as a creative writing instructor and teacher trainer with Urban Word NYC (a writing and performance resource for New York City teens), Cooper Union’s outreach program, and the Bronx Writers’ Center, among others. Bonair-Agard’s poetry and research have also earned him invitations to serve as the keynote speaker at the commencement exercises of several high schools, and to serve on panels and lecture on topics including Teaching Poetry to Teens, The Relationship between Media and Hip-Hop, Blues to Hip-Hop: a journey of resistance (New York University) and social responsibility and local activism (as part of Dartmouth College’s SEAD program).
Bonair-Agard’s work has been widely anthologized, and has been commissioned extensively through the multi-disciplinary performance troupe VisionIntoArt. He has also authored a successful one-man show, and chaos congealed (1998) and the acclaimed one-man poetry concert MASQUERADE: poems of calypso and home.
"Upbeat and enthralling. " - The New York Times
"You couldn't ask for a better one-stop survey of what's happening in new music now" - New York Magazine
"You can expect to hear music by everyone from Nico Muhly and Anna Clyne to Chinese pipa player Min Xio-Fen, who in the above video sounds just like Buke and Gass. Which is a good thing." - Feast of Music
"VisionIntoArt…has facilitated flamboyant, confounding and enticing collaborations among choreographers, visual artists, actors and composers…" - New York Times
"…always intriguing and frequently beguiling….[VIA] deserves credit for envisioning new possibilities..." --New York Times, April 2011
"Visionary-in-Chief" --Time Out NY, about VIA Co-founder and Creative Director, Paola Prestini, May 2012
"The composers involved in this new Liederabend...span New York’s vibrant, inclusive, new-music scene."
- Time Out New York
"Labyrinth installation dazzles, stuns at Krannert Center...a mesmerizing, multilayered digital environment for the artists... a journey layered with tantalizing visual and audial stimuli." - The Daily Illini
"While listening and watching, my mind wandered to ideas of the universe and life." - On Labyrinth The News Gazette
From our workshop production of John Zorn's Holy Visions
"evocative video projections by S. Katy Tucker. In a focused yet flexible performance, the sopranos Mellissa Hughes, Sarah Brailey and Jane Sheldon; the mezzo Abigail Fischer; and the contralto Kirsten Sollek illuminated both the claustrophobia and the ecstasy at the heart of these medieval visions." - The New York Times, November 4, 2013
"eerily beautiful"- The New York Times, November 1, 2013