“Miguel Algarín was a brilliant poet, an influential professor and leader,” the Nuyorican Poets Cafe said in a statement.
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a New York beacon. For almost 50 years, the storied venue has been a haven for poetry lovers and a refuge for cultural seekers, and that’s all because of poet and co-founder Miguel Algarín. It was announced late Monday night that the retired Rutgers University professor of English died at the age of 79. The cause of death has not been disclosed.
“With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to poet & visionary Miguel Algarín, founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Miguel was a brilliant poet, an influential professor and leader, and a supportive mentor who inspired and guided generations of artists,” the Nuyorican Poets Cafe account tweeted.
Algarín, born in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, moved with his family to New York City in the 1950s. He has degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania State University, and his PhD from Rutgers University, where he would eventually teach as well. He also taught at Brooklyn College and New York University.
Before Algarín opened the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, along with other poets and writers, he was hosting cultural gatherings in his Manhattan apartment. The overflow of gatherers continued, and in 1981, Algarín expanded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and purchased a bigger space, a former tenement building, at 236 E. 3rd St., where it resides today.
Algarín’s achievements include winning three American Book Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a teaching career at Rutgers University that spans more than 30 years. But his successes are more than accolades. Many on social media are remembering Algarín for contributing to the fabric of their lives.
“When I moved to NYC 4 years ago, he gave me an opportunity to perform after the Friday night Poetry Competition… Legendary place, but an incredible human being… R.I.P,” artist Descendent MC tweeted.
Mario Hernández, program manager for the Unusual Suspects theater nonprofit, tweeted, “I met Miguel when I worked at B3 right down the street from the cafe. A beautiful soul with the filthiest mouth on earth. ¡Leyenda! My condolences to his friends and family. I will read him tonight.”
Núria Net, journalist and co-founder of the website Remezcla, tweeted, “Even though @planetaclaire and I went to the same university all the way uptown, the first time we met was at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, introduced by a mutual friend. So you could say Remezcla has its root there. Gracias Miguel Algarín. Rest in Power.”
“[Miguel] edited popular anthologies of poetry and theater, helped launch the Nuyorican Literary movement and championed spoken word, hip hop and theater by Latinx and Black artists. The literary world owes Miguel a debt of gratitude. He will be greatly missed, ” the Nuyorican Poets Cafe wrote on their Facebook page.