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Jesús Papoleto Meléndez

Jesús Papoleto Meléndez is an award-winning New York-born Puerto Rican poet who is recognized as one of the founders of the Nuyorican Movement. He is also a playwright, teacher and activist.

Affectionately known as "Papo," Meléndez published his first poem, "Message to Urban Sightseers" in Talkin' About Us (1969). The publication of his earliest volumes of poetry, Casting Long Shadows (1970), Have You Seen Liberation (1971), and Street Poetry & Other Poems (1972), firmly established Meléndez as a prominent poet in the Nuyorican community.

His other publications include Concertos On Market Street (Kemetic Images, 1994), which merged his Nuyorican melodies with a Sourthern California sensibility, and Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry, A Bilingual Edition (2012) a compilation of his three previously published books from the 1970s. As the recipient of Pregones Theater's 2014 Master Artist Award, many of the selections from Hey Yo! Yo Soy! was made into a play of the same name, and performed at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in 2014.

In 1974, Meléndez's play, "The Junkies Stole The Clock," was the first Latino play produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theatre's Nuyorican Playwright's Unit. It was again produced in 1997, and directed by Veronica Caicedo (Caicedo Productions) at the Clemente Soto Vega Cultural Center, in New York City. He also wrote the play, "An Element of Art" (El Porton Theatre Co., 1978).

Beginning in the 1970s, Meléndez began his 40-year career as a poet-facilitator in the public schools, working at workshop programs in California and New York. Meléndez is anthologized most notably in The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011); Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Three Rivers Press, 2001); Literature and Integrated Studies - Forms of Literature (ScottForesman/HarperCollins Publishers, 1997); Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin, 1994); Hojas, Revista de Talleres Literatura (Universidad Autonoma Baja California, Tijuana, Mexico, 1986): and Puertoricaner in New York (Institute of Amerikanerika, Universitat Nurnberg, Germany, 1979). His works were recently published in Pa'lante a La luz - Charge Into The Light (Rogue Scholars Press, 2018), Word, An Anthology by A Gathering of the Tribes (2017), and Manteca, An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets (Arte Publico Press, 2017).

Meléndez's is a NYFA Poetry Fellow (New York Foundation of the Arts, 2001), and is the recipient of the Pregones Theater's 2014 Master Artist Award. He has received the Union Settlement Association "Innovation Award" (2011), the Universes Poetic Ensemble Company Award in "Appreciation of Inspiration & Commitment to the Development of the Company" (2006); The 1st Annual El Reverendo Pedro Pietri Hand Award in Poetry, El Spirit Republic de Puerto Rico, El Puerto Rican Embassy (2006); The Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award, Amherst College (2004); and an Artist for Community Enrichment (ACE) Award from the Bronx Council on the Arts (1995). Now an elder statesman of the New York poetry scene, Meléndez has become a mentor for emerging poets and writers.