Miguel Algarín, a founder of New York’s beloved Nuyorican Poets Cafe, dies at 79

Miguel Algarin, one of the founders of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, in 2005.
(Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press)

Miguel Algarín, poet, professor and a founder of New York City’s beloved Nuyorican Poets Cafe performance space, has died. He was 79.

Algarín died of sepsis Monday at a Manhattan hospital, said Daniel Gallant, executive director of the cafe.

Born in Puerto Rico, Algarín and his family came to New York City when he was a child.

After Algarín had returned to New York with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Penn State University, he held gatherings with other poets in his apartment in the early 1970s, exploring Puerto Rican identity and other themes.


Out of that was created the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which by 1981 had moved to a building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where it remains.

“Miguel was a brilliant poet, an influential professor and leader, and a supportive mentor who inspired and guided generations of artists,” Gallant said.

Algarín was a prolific writer, with multiple books of poetry to his name, and edited several anthologies as well.

He spent years at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he taught classes on Shakespeare, creative writing and ethnic literature, and became a professor emeritus.

Gallant said the cafe would have an online tribute for Algarín this month and would do something in person as soon as conditions allow.