Bushwick poet brings his life into his poetry

Having grown up in Bushwick during the 1980s, Axel Garcia used his experiences and time spent at Bushwick High School to overcome the challenges placed in front of him and develop a love of poetry that he has turned into a career.

While attending Bushwick High School, Garcia was surrounded by gangs, drug dealers and even hearing gunshots.

“Back then it was a little rough,” Garcia said. “It was very different back then than it is now. It’s definitely evolved in many ways, which is good.”

Amidst these dangers and turmoil, Garcia was unexpectedly introduced to poetry by two teachers at Bushwick High School.

“I had two major influences in high school,” Garcia explained. “I had two teachers, Mr. Ragusa…was the band teacher…he was heavily into classical music and poetry so he used to always mention poems and he was always a very calm teacher.”

“But I didn’t get into poetry because of him, I got into poetry because of another teacher, my English teacher Mr. Broiles,” he continued. “I remember being in the class and he would try to teach us poetry…I remember in particular the poem “After Apple-Picking,” by Robert Frost. I decided to look at it…and it kind of drew me in that you can say so much without really saying it.”

Once Garcia discovered poetry he started to weave his new found creative process into his life, writing his own poems and making songs for his band. As a beginning poet he would go to the men that introduced him to this new art form for advice and guidance.

“I used to bring [my poems] to him, I was so happy and as horrible as they were, he would never put me down, he always encouraged me, and it was the same with Mr. Ragusa when I started showing him,” Garcia said. “And to me it opened up another world for me and the thinking process and the making music process. It made me see things differently.”

As Garcia grew older, he began entertaining the thought of performing his poetry.

“I wanted to do it, but I was scared,” Garcia said. “At this point I was writing for years and people would always tell me that I should publish myself, and I never knew how to go about it.”

After seeing some of Garcia’s poems on Facebook, Juan “PaPo” Santiago, director and curator for the Capicu Cultural Showcase, invited Garcia to read some of his poetry at his venue.

Photo courtesy Axel Garcia
Photo courtesy Axel Garcia

“So eventually I got the courage to go…so I finally go up and I do a poem and I felt like I was embraced,”
Garcia said. “It was like a family atmosphere, no one judged. People encourage you there as well, so I enjoyed it, I loved it.”

It was also at the Capicu Cultural Showcase that Garcia met James McClory, who assisted him in self-publishing his book of poetry. The guidance he received from McClory helped Garcia publish his first book titled “In Life and Love” in April 2014.

“It was a major accomplishment for me,” Garcia said. “Losing my dad [Ulberto Orta Garcia] in 2013…it was a major blow to me and the family in general. So recollecting myself, getting my poems together and then releasing it in April, basically a few months after, I felt like I needed to do it. I wanted him to be proud.”

Garcia’s second book, “Through Different Eyes (Poetic Verses),” was published this year and reflects more on his life and experiences, drawing inspiration from his mother Gladys, brother Will, and children Caitlin, Axel Shane and Amaya.

“I want to show my children that it is possible that no matter how down you may be, how bleak the situation may look, you can stay positive and you can accomplish things,” Garcia said. “That’s what I want to leave behind.”


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