- October 17, 2021
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Martín Espada, professor in the UMass Amherst department of English and celebrated poet of social justice, will offer the fall 2021 plenary lecture for the Commonwealth Honors College on Friday, Oct. 15, at 5 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium. He will read from various works, including his new poetry collection Floaters, and engage in a discussion of poetry as a form of persuasion that stirs the emotions, awakens the senses and acts as a force to convey ideas that change the world.
Espada’s newest collection is a finalist for this year’s National Book Award. Floaters takes its title from a term used by some Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross the border. Espada bears eloquent witness to confrontations with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer many years ago and sings the praises of Central American adolescents in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry today. Whether celebrating fallen rebels and poets or condemning outrageous governmental neglect of his father’s Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane María, Espada invokes fierce spirits. The Boston Globe hails the book as “a work of grace-laden defiance.” Says Publishers Weekly, “The visionary latest from Espada combines a sharp political awareness with a storyteller’s knack for finding beauty and irony in the current moment.” Salon calls it a “brilliant collection of poems that anger, delight, amuse, and shatter.”
Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a J.D. from Northeastern University. He served as supervisor of Su Clínica Legal, a legal services program for low-income, Spanish-speaking tenants in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He has published more than 20 books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed, The Trouble Ball, and Alabanza. He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump. He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The title poem of his collection “Alabanza,” about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple, was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The event is open to the public.
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