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Monday, April 3, 2017

233 Roland Legiardi-Laura: The Underground History of Amercian Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Roland Legiardi-Laura 

In 1966 1 taught the novel Moby-Dick film theory, and versification to a thirteen-year- 
old kid named Roland Legiardi-Laura, at JHS 44 in Manhattan. Roland was memorable 
in many ways, but two I remember best were him reeking of garlic at nine in the morning, 
every morning, and his determination never to work at a "job" but to be a poet. Before he 
had even graduated from college, both his parents died, leaving him nearly penniless. 
Forced to become completely self-supporting, he still remained focused on poetry, and a 
little over a decade later, while living on a shoestring, organized a mobile band of poet- 
terrorists who raced around the state in a candy-striped truck, delivering poetry 
spontaneously in bars and on street corners. Shortly afterwards, while living in a 
building without secure stairs or an intact roof, he flew to Nicaragua where poetry is the 
national sport and convinced the government to allow him to make a poetry 
documentary. When I advanced him $50 out of the 300 grand he would need, I told him 
he was nuts. But somehow he raised the money, made the film, and won nine 
international film awards. Meanwhile he had learned to support himself doing carpentry 
and odd jobs, the oddest of which was to help to rehabilitate a shambles of a building 
near Hell 's Angels headquarters on Manhattan 's Lower East Side and convert it into a 
poetry nightclub, where he would later become the director and an impresario. Who 
would go to a poetry nightclub? It turns out a lot of people, and as the Nuyorican Poets 
Cafe expanded to include Roland's unique creation — a live reading of original film 
scripts using top professional actors — I saw the unfolding of a life that's touched the lives 
of thousands of people, helping foster their talent, not a corporate agenda. Rooted in his 
local community, full of distinction, thoroughly "scholarly, "Roland's career as a poet 
and critically acclaimed filmmaker simply would not have been possible or even 
foreseeable to a School-to-Work program. 

The Squeeze 

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