September 22, 2024: Martín Espada

Special Introduction by Esmeralda Santiago*

“I see the poetic imagination as essential to the political poem. For poetry, truth is necessary but not sufficient. The imagination—that imagined afterlife, that imagined justice—goes to the heart of the poem as vision. William Blake wrote: ‘What is now proved was once only imagined.’ We must imagine justice, even the impossible, even if this requires leaps that some might call surreal.” —Martín Espada

Martín Espada
photo by David Gonzalez

Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest book of poems is called Floaters, winner of the 2021 National Book Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003) and Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (2019). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, a Letras Boricuas Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. 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 (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Floaters by Martín Espada“Martín Espada’s Floaters manages to address the concerns of our times through a timeless voice that can be heard above ‘this cacophonous world.’ These poems remind us of the power of observation, of seeing everything—what’s in front of us, what’s behind us both in memory and in heritage, and what we can only imagine—believing all are worthy of song, all are worthy of taking seriously within our song. This is a collection that is vital for our times and will be vital for those in the future, trying to make sense of today.”— National Book Award Citation

*Esmeralda Santiago is a Puerto Rican author known for her narrative memoirs and trans-cultural writing. Her impact extends beyond cultivating narratives as she paves the way for more coming-of-age stories about being a Latina in the United States, alongside navigating cultural dissonance through acculturation. More information at