Papoleto is a New York-bornPuerto Ricanaward-winning poet most associated with the Nuyoricanmovement. He is also a playwright, teacher and activist.
Affectionately known as "Papo," he was born and raised in East Harlem or “Spanish Harlem,” of Puerto Rican parents who migrated to the mainland in search of a better life for their family.
Short in stature with a big, booming laugh, Papo is well-known in the community as an original Nuyorican poet who helped to found the famous Nuyorican Poets' Club (on the Lower East Side) with his friend Pedro Pietri.
Growing up with three sisters and one brother, Papo, the middle kid in the family, acquired a penchant for looking at things from a different perspective. Attending the public schools of his neighborhood, Meléndez became interested in writing at a young age, and participated in his first poetry reading when he was 19 years old.
Meléndez emerged onto theNew York Cityscene at the right place at the right time. He published his first poem, “Message To Urban Sightseers” inTalkin' About Us (NY, 1969). He went on to publish his first volumes of poetry,Casting Long Shadows (NY, 1970),Have You Seen Liberation (NY, 1971), andStreet Poetry & Other Poems (Barlenmir House, NY 1972), which firmly established Meléndez in the Nuyorican community. During the 1970s, he worked as a teacher-poet forTeachers & Writers Collaborative, a then relatively new organization founded by a group of writers and educators who believed that writers could make a unique contribution to the teaching of writing.
“I believe that poetry is the first form of communication...because it cuts to the chase,” says Papoleto.
Papo is optimistic about the arts community in El Barrio: “There is an artistic air in the neighborhood... there’s always something to look at.” However, that doesn't mean that art should be taken for granted..