Pulitzer finalist Martin Espada will read from his poetry at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Alumnae Library Theatre at Elms College.

Martin Espada Poetry Reading

Pulitzer finalist Martin Espada will read from his poetry at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Alumnae Library Theater at Elms College.

Poetry Series to Host Reading by Pulitzer Finalist Martín Espada

To extend Elms College's celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Blue House will present a poetry reading by Martín Espada at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Alumnae Library Theater. A reception will precede the event at 7 p.m.

“Martín Espada is one of our finest poets of the region, the country and the world,” said Dan Chelotti, assistant professor of English at Elms College. “Every year, I try to fill the Blue House Presents reading series with a diverse lineup. Although this reading will happen shortly after the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to bring diverse voices to campus that are representative of the diversity we find on campus every day.”

Espada, who was born in Brooklyn in 1957, has been called “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors” by writer Sandra Cisneros. A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

“Martín Espada has said that poetry is bread, that which we pass around the table. Poetry is food for the soul and mind: two parts of us we often forget to feed,” Chelotti said. “I love when a student comes to me and says, ‘I had no idea how hungry I was for this.’ Martín Espada is the kind of poet that brings new readers to the poetry table.”

“Poetry challenges readers and listeners to understand what motivates a poet to think and orchestrate their work the way they do,” Chelotti added. “As with all literature, poetry increases one's own capacity to empathize with others.”

Espada has published more than 15 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. Espada’s forthcoming collection of poems is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996) and City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993).

The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona.

His many honors include the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

The poems Espada plans to read at this event include selections from a series about the life and death of his father -- a community organizer, civil rights activist and documentary photographer, from a jailhouse in Mississippi to the streets of Brooklyn. Others deal with collective grief in the wake of the killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and police violence against people of color.

Poetry itself cannot be separated from social justice struggles, Espada noted. “I write in the tradition of Walt Whitman, who saw himself as an advocate for what he called ‘the rights of them the others are down upon,’ ” he said.

“No change for the good ever happens without being imagined first -- even if, at the time we imagine such change, it seems impossible,” he added. “That's where poetry comes in. It's an act of the political imagination. The poems I read at Elms will reflect my belief in the connection between poetry and justice.”


View the entire Fall 2015 Semester Visiting Writers Series schedule.