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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)

Of the Threads that Connect the Stars

Did you ever see stars?  asked my father with a cackle. He was not
speaking of the heavens, but the white flash in his head when a fist burst
between his eyes. In Brooklyn, this would cause men and boys to slap
the table with glee; this might be the only heavenly light we'd ever see.

I never saw stars. The sky in Brooklyn was a tide of smoke rolling over us
from the factory across the avenue, the mattresses burning in the junkyard,
the ruins where squatters would sleep, the riots of 1966 that kept me
locked in my room like a suspect. My father talked truce on the streets.

My son can see the stars through the tall barrel of a telescope.
He names the galaxies with the numbers and letters of astronomy.
I cannot see what he sees in the telescope, no matter how many eyes I shut.
I understand a smoking mattress better than the language of galaxies.

My father saw stars. My son sees stars. The earth rolls beneath
our feet. We lurch ahead, and one day we have walked this far.

Reprinted from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Copyright © 2016 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. and Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

Reprinted from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Copyright © 2016 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. and Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

Martín Espada

Martín Espada

Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, essayist, editor and translator, including his most recently published poetry collection, Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (W. W. Norton, 2016). He is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

by this poet

poem
for my father, Frank Espada


In 1941, my father saw his first big league ballgame at Ebbets Field
in Brooklyn: the Dodgers and the Cardinals. My father took his father's hand.
When the umpires lumbered on the field, the
poem

Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
But songs of insurrection also,
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over.
                                                                                     —Walt Whitman

I

poem

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye