Willie Perdomo is a prize-winning Nuyorican poet and children's book author. He is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), Postcards of El Barrio (Isla Negra Press, 2002), and Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax Press, 2003), which received a PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. His children's book, Visiting Langston, received the Coretta Scott King Honors. Perdomo was also the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 2001, and a Fiction Fellowship in 2006. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and recently was a Woolrich Fellow in Creative Writing at Columbia University. He is co-founder/publisher of Cypher Books and teaches in New York City.
He was a member of the 1991 Nuyorican Poetry Slam team and has performed his poetry on PBS' The United States of Poetry and HBO's Def Poetry. He first read poetry aloud on a mic for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at age twenty-two. Despite being featured on many documentaries about poetry in performance, Willie Perdomo considers the performance to be secondary to the writing and rejects the performance poet label. He does, however, feel that powerful oral delivery of his poems can bring his words to more people.
He was also a collaborating artist in Rhythmicity at The Humana Festival of New American Plays (2002—2003) season.
Perdomo writes about the issues of East Harlem such as race, violence, addiction, and poverty. He often employs hip-hop rhythms, spanish words, and a politically-motivated anger. While race and culture are important to his Nuyorican poetry, he admits that his work is representative of himself, not his whole culture. In his own words, "I'm not here to represent a whole race of people. I can't do that." His literary influences range from Langston Hughes and Piri Thomas to Rilke and William Carlos Williams. He describes his poetic prowess to lie in the "ability to be universal without having to sacrifice the power of that East Harlem idiom."
Willie Perdomo grew up in predominantly Spanish East Harlem, New York. His father emigrated from Puerto Rico in his early twenties. Perdomo's dark skin led to many assumptions that Perdomo is African-American, despite his purely Puerto Rican heritage. He attended public schools until sixth grade, when he won a scholarship to Friends Seminary, a private Quaker school in lower Manhattan. This proved to be a shocking shift for inner-city Perdomo, unaccustomed to Quaker ways and suddenly surrounded by white prep-school boys. He got into a few fights there before he met a friendly school receptionist named Ed who told him, "You need to reroute this energy you have." Soon after hearing this advice, teenage Willie heard Ed read some of his poetry. He was inspired and began writing poems to submit to Ed for criticism. Ed became Perdomo's mentor, helping to craft his voice and style. By his senior year he was published in the New York Public Library publication New Youth Connections. After graduating from Friends Seminary, he moved to nearby Ithaca College and studied a variety of subjects. He currently lives in New York City and is working on his next project, Emergency Money.Perdomo is Co-Publisher of Cypher Books, a publisher of today's most necessary poetry. Visit Willie's web site at www.willieperdomo.com.