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Boro libraries host readings of city taxi driver’s poems

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All grown-up and out of Louisiana, Garrett enters the Bay Terrace Library on Feb. 2 not as a place of refuge, but as a place where his artistic talents are embraced and recognized. He has been invited to recite a selection of poems from his book, "King Lear of the Taxi: Musings of a New York City Taxi Driver/Actor." He begins with the poem, "Blasted Out of Dixie," about his departure from his home city of Shreveport, La. The last stanza reads: "Rain, snow, hail, ice/ a tempest only befits my Southern goodbye-/ as I escape the darkness of hate.""As a closeted gay child it was very traumatic for me because I always had inward terror," says Garrett, now in his 50s.To eliminate the fear of being an outsider, Garrett pursued drama."It was the only way I could relate to others. It was my way of feeling that I existed," he says.The acceptance he felt on stage ignited his ambition to pursue acting seriously.At 20, Garrett moved to New York City and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Yet, as he explains to the 17 attentive heads in the audience, "you feel before you get to New York like you are the only person in the world that has this dream, and New York is a rude awakening, you are not quite as unique as you thought." This sentiment is confirmed in his poem, "Welcome to New York": "Ya'think you're so unique, Buster?/ Get a grip on your ass!/ don't quit your day job Honey-Lamb/ Go out and buy some bulldozer balls!"But at first it was difficult for Garrett to get that bulldozer confidence. Not only was he shaken after realizing there were countless other aspiring actors, but his studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts further discouraged him from his dream. His poem, "Dramatic Arts," describes the major conclusion he derived from the school: "Find cheap rents and easy day-jobs!"His easy day-job became driving a taxi for a living.He has been a taxi driver for 27 years now and leases his taxi from Queens Midtown garage in Long Island City. Garrett explains that driving a cab has given him the freedom to go on auditions and opportunity "to study humanity from my rearview mirror." Yet, the hours spent behind the wheel can be very depressing and incarcerating. Such contrasting perspectives are evident throughout his book, where he refers to his taxi as a "yellow chariot," "yellow zephyr" and "yellow jail."He expresses equally mixed feelings of his experiences as an actor. Most of his poems sway from optimism to pessimism, with the traffic red light signifying an opportunity to enter a fantasy world of discovery, only to quickly switch back to the traffic green light, when he is brought back to the reality of an undiscovered actor. The last four lines of his poem, "Taxi Driver," published in the Metropolitan Diary of the New York Times, read: "soon to be locked behind the wheel/ for hours, while the brain plays games/ with bold dreams that disappear/ when the red light blinks back to green."Disillusioned and disheartened, Garrett says he was about to stray away from his artistic path until one day when he drove to Connecticut and saw a production of "King Lear" starring classical actor Morris Carnovsky. He describes this as the single most important moment in his life, a moment which rekindled his love for acting and inspired the title of his book."Morris's raw emotion and commitment to the language was so strong that I cried as I left the theater," Garrett says.Since then, half of Garrett's book was a finalist in the 2000 Gival Press Chapbook competition, and his poetry has been featured in the New York Times, Xavier Review (New Orleans), Sensations Magazine, The Unknown Writer and the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Anthology from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. His poems cover a range of his experiences, including his encounters with the famous, most notably Mother Theresa and actress Lauren Bacall. His book can purchased from amazon.com or his Web site adventurepress.com. Passengers can purchase his book while riding his taxi.After Garrett's reading, 47-year-old writer and Bayside resident Neala Borvina says, "He left a good impression on me. I am taking the book home.""I really felt that taxi drivers are not just drivers, they see, experience, and are many different things," says Abraham Montz, 83-year-old retired salesman and Bayside resident.Garrett's next reading will be held on April 2 at the Middle Village Library.Garrett says years of experience and psychoanalysis have led him to conclude, as stated in the first three words of his preface, "You are enough."

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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