About this poet

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Martín Espada is the author of more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. A former tenant lawyer in the Greater Boston area’s Latino community, he received a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and a JD from Northeastern University in 1985.

Espada published his first poetry collection, The Immigrant Iceboy’s Bolero (Waterfront Press), in 1982. Among his other books of poetry are Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (W. W. Norton, 2016); The Trouble Ball (W. W. Norton, 2011), which was the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award, and an International Latino Book Award; The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006), which received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and Imagine the Angels of Bread (W. W. Norton, 1996), winner of an American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Espada has also published multiple essay collections, including The Lover of a Subversive Is Also a Subversive (University of Michigan Press, 2010), and edited three anthologies, including Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination (Curbstone, 1994). In 2004, he released a CD of poetry called Now the Dead will Dance the Mambo (Leapfrog).

About Espada’s work, the poet Gary Soto has said, “Martín Espada has chosen the larger task: to go outside the self-absorbed terrain of most contemporary poets into a landscape where others—bus drivers, revolutionaries, the executed of El Salvador—sit, walk, or lie dead ‘without heads.' There’s no rest here. We’re jostled awake by the starkness of these moments, but occasionally roll from Espada’s political humor.”

Espada has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, an International Latino Book Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2018, he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. He is currently a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (W. W. Norton, 2016)
The Trouble Ball (W. W. Norton, 2011)
The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006)
Alabanza: New and Selected Poems: 1982-2002 (W. W. Norton, 2003)
Imagine the Angels of Bread (W. W. Norton, 1996)
A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (W. W. Norton, 2000)
City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (W. W. Norton, 1993)
Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990)
Trumpets from the Islands of Their Eviction (Bilingual Press, 1987)
The Immigrant Iceboy's Bolero (Waterfront Press, 1982)

Prose
Zapata’s Disciple: Essays (South End, 1998; Northwestern University Press, 2016)
The Necessary Poetics of Atheism (with Lauren Schmidt and Jeremy Schraffenberger; Twelve Winters Press, 2016)
The Lover of a Subversive Is Also a Subversive (University of Michigan Press, 2010)

The Republic of Poetry

For Chile

In the republic of poetry,
a train full of poets
rolls south in the rain
as plum trees rock
and horses kick the air,
and village bands
parade down the aisle
with trumpets, with bowler hats,
followed by the president
of the republic,
shaking every hand.

In the republic of poetry,
monks print verses about the night
on boxes of monastery chocolate,
kitchens in restaurants
use odes for recipes
from eel to artichoke,
and poets eat for free.

In the republic of poetry,
poets read to the baboons
at the zoo, and all the primates,
poets and baboons alike, scream for joy.

In the republic of poetry,
poets rent a helicopter
to bombard the national palace
with poems on bookmarks,
and everyone in the courtyard
rushes to grab a poem
fluttering from the sky,
blinded by weeping.

In the republic of poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

Copyright © 2006 by Martín Espada. From The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2006 by Martín Espada. From The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.