Broke on Ice is a nonlinear narrative in verse in the voice of a homeless everyman named Broke, talking about his existence and life experiences through conversational poems, tall tales, anecdotes, episodes, and jokes, much like that of Langston Hughes’ Simple. Broke is also in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, as well as Nicanor Parra’s Christ of Elqui, Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito and Richard Pryor’s Mudbone, where these everyman personas critique modern society through satire, humor, irony and pathos. As poet Kelly Norman Ellis puts it, “Broke is an unflinching well of humanity who reminds us of the wicked wink inside the blues.” Broke on Ice is part of a series that includes Sermons from the Smell of a Carcass Condemned to Begging and Pictures of Broke.
PRAISE for Broke on Ice:
Broke On Ice is Tony Medina’s wordsmithing at its best. With his poet’s tongue, he conjures the world of Broke with wit and compassion. Broke’s honest and intelligent critiques of capitalism, god, and popular culture are perfect blue notes. Here is the jagged grained music of poverty, broken glass, subway cars, and the “miserable curbs” of the world. Medina’s Broke is an unflinching well of humanity who reminds us of the wicked wink inside the blues. Play your music, Broke…play your song…
—Kelly Norman Ellis, author of Tougaloo Blues and coeditor of Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS
Tony Medina is a writer consciously engaged in social and political change. Acutely aware of the 21st century socioeconomic realities of life on the margins, Medina recasts Langston Hughes’ classic everyman, Jesse B. Semple, as “Broke,” a homeless—though not hopeless—street poet. No longer able to cling even to a tenuous blue collar existence, Broke emerges as part trickster, part signifier, and part skid row Walter Winchell, whose own edict that “nobody will ever get ahead of you as long as he is kicking you in the seat of the pants” seems perfectly pitched for this character who insists on his right to exist despite all who would render his life pointless. “If I die / Before I ever / Have a chance / At living,” asks Broke, “Will God count / This life / Against me”? As ethereal as Ellison’s Rinehart, yet firmly placed in the cold, concrete reality of today’s urban streets, Broke doubles as a trope 21st century invisibility even as the mainstream pats itself on the back for having achieved a “post-racial” society. Employing a carefully constructed language of casual address in nearly 100 poems, Medina knows that today’s marginalized antihero has less access to barstools than curbsides where he must “crawl around existence like a shrimp.” Yet, as Broke rightly concludes, “It would be a crime / Not to use my imagination / To try and survive.”
—Samiya Bashir, author of Gospel and Where the Apple Falls
Medina’s insistent voice is loud and soft at the same time. Some of his poems make you laugh aloud while others break your heart. Either way, you are forever affected.
—Patricia Elam, author of Breathing Room
With unflinching excavations and surreal leaps, Tony Medina deftly languages what “broke” can mean. His portrait of the down-but-never-quite-out everyman is poignantly philosophical yet artfully urgent. We are forced to reconsider a real system—a market-driven, hyper-competitive, insufficiently compassionate culture—and a real body—scatology, viscus, mucous. This poetry is gritty but poetry nonetheless–witty, parodic, ironic, brilliant. Medina remains a remarkable and relevant talent.
—Keith Gilyard, author of John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism
Tony Medina is the author/editor of seventeen books for adults and young readers, including DeShawn Days (Lee & Low Books, 2001), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Random House/Three Rivers Press, 2001), Love to Langston (Lee & Low Books, 2002), Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature & Art (Third World Press, 2002), Committed to Breathing (Third World Press, 2003), and Follow-up Letters to Santa from Kids Who Never Got a Response (Just Us Books, 2003). Featured in the documentaries Nuyorc 1999; A Weigh with Words: An Inside Look At How Words Create Conflict or Compassion; Furious Flower II: Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition: Roots & First Fruits/Cross-Pollination in the Diaspora/Blooming in the Whirlwind, Medina’s poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews appear in over one hundred publications and a number of CD compilations. An advisory editor for Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni, his most recent work is featured in the anthologies Poets Against the Killing Field; Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones; Fingernails Across a Chalkboard: A Literary and Artistic View of HIV/AIDS Affecting People of Color, Full Moon on K Street; Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75; and Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS (Third World Press, 2010). Medina has taught English at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus and Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, and has earned an MA and PhD in English from Binghamton University, SUNY. Medina was featured in interview on thebrownbookshelf.com’s Black History Month 28 Days Campaign and in Little Patuxent Review’s Social Justice Issue, Winter 2012. His fiction and poetry have recently been featured in the anthologies 44 on 44: Forty-four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama 44th President of the United States (Third World Press, 2011), edited by Lita Hooper, Sonia Sanchez and Michael Simanga; the 2010 NAACP Award winner in Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems (Sourcebooks, 2010), edited by Nikki Giovanni; and the Beltway Poetry Quarterly. The first Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University, Medina’s latest books are I and I, Bob Marley (Lee & Low Books, 2009), My Old Man Was Always on the Lam (NYQ Books, 2010), finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize, Broke on Ice (Willow Books/Aquarius Press, 2011), An Onion of Wars (Third World Press, 2012), The President Looks Like Me & Other Poems (Just Us Books, 2013) and Broke Baroque (2Leaf Press, 2013), finalist for the Julie Suk Award for Best Poetry Book from an Independent Press. Featured in the documentary, Sheer Good Fortune: Celebrating Toni Morrison, Medina was nominated for a Pushcart Award in poetry and was awarded both The Langston Hughes Society Award and the first African Voices Literary Award. He is also a two-time winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People.