As The Reality Poets Roll Through Open Doors, Renewal Rides Along


The first time I met the Reality Poets, we talked along the West Promenade outside their home, Coler Rehabilitation Hospital. Their bodies would never return to normal, but something bigger was being rehabbed: their spirits.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

An Expanding Circle of Reality Poets

That afternoon, it was impossible predicting they’d go so far in just five years. But there was something about them. These men were not surrendering to helpless routines, although their past lives had been shattered.

They shared their stories about how violence or accidents abruptly ended their running on the streets. Yet in their histories, a strong commitment to new normals vibrated. They would not allow their physical restrictions to own them.

Leaning back against the rusted seawall railing, I listened. A creative spark among them coalesced into a force of poets, ready to inform and shake up the world. Although one concern was the local community’s lack of inclusion for Coler residents, they soon forced the issue with a lively performance of their craft at RIVAA.

The art gallery came to life with smartly crafted, emotional poetry complimented by visuals the Reality Poets brought with them.

A Surprising Emergence

“When I arrived at Coler Rehabilitation & Nursing Care Center six years ago, I thought my life was over,” says Andres “Jay” Molina. “Then I met a group of guys who became my friends, brothers and family. We formed the Reality Poets…”

From Day One, this was more than just a group of guys needing friendship and shared artwork. Advocacy ran through every performance, saying that life is more than bodies permanently in chairs. They had a lot to say.

And then, the coronavirus pandemic challenged them in new ways, forcing them into extreme conditions and restricted environments.

Determined not to let surrender to the rampant disease or what they considered the city’s gross mishandling of nursing homes, they struck back. Not just reality poets, these men became relentless warriors for better treatment.

Much of that was recorded in international news stories from sources like ProPublica, but they grabbed some control too.

“Throughout the pandemic,” Molina writes, “we’ve been working passionately on our documentary film Fire Through Dry Grass. And our hard work has paid off.”

” ITVS selected our film along with 7 others from a pool of more than 300 applicants through their Open Call. The ITVS deal provides us with significant funds; editorial, marketing and impact guidance; and ensures that millions of people will see and hear our story on PBS!”

(See the film’s trailer here.)

In the Meantime

As the Reality Poets grow into so much more, you can catch them at work in a pair local events.

Today, they show off their skills at mural paint at the Fall for Arts Festival, starting at 10:00 a.m., then opening a poetry slam at 2:00.

The work remains on display after the festival closes and may end up in the Motorgate gallery.

Then, on October 14th, they launch The Collection, Vol. 2: Isolation & Connection.

Do yourself a favor. Savor life through the creations of Roosevelt Island’s own Reality Poets. Guaranteed to raise your spirit and your awareness.

More from the Roosevelt Island Daily

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