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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Espada describes political aspect of his poetry

Martin Espada, poet, reads some of his work during a Living Literature presentation on NE Campus last month. Espada has published 13 books and is also an editor and translator.  Photo by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian
Martin Espada, poet, reads some of his work during a Living Literature presentation on NE Campus last month. Espada has published 13 books and is also an editor and translator. Photo by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian

By Charity Montieth and Kelsey Mobbs

Martin Espada, poet, reads some of his work during a Living Literature presentation on NE Campus last month. Espada has published 13 books and is also an editor and translator.  Photo by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian
Martin Espada, poet, reads some of his work during a Living Literature presentation on NE Campus last month. Espada has published 13 books and is also an editor and translator. Photo by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian

Poetry is often difficult for many students to grasp, but through the use of rhythm, vocal variation and emotion, one poet’s works seemingly came to life at a recent NE Campus presentation.

Award-winning poet Martin Espada shared selected poems from his book Alabanza: New and Selected Poems, giving spectators a rare view of his personal experiences and inspirations at the 25th annual Living Literature presentation March 29.

“ The impossible can happen in poems,” he said. “We can see the end of war and the return of the dead. And, if you read closely, you will hear the music.”

Much of Espada’s poetry is heavily influenced by his Puerto Rican background. Although he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he visited Puerto Rico when he was 10.

He said the visit was a bit of a culture shock and served as inspiration for “Coca Cola & Coca Frio.”

“ All of my aunts thought Coca-Cola was a treat,” he said. “I was bored with it—I wanted to drink the fresh milk from the coconuts.”

Many of his poems are political in nature, to which he credits his father, Frank Espada, an activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.

Although his father was not well-known in the Civil Rights Movement, he did help fight the battle like somany others whose names are not written in history books, Espada said.

“ I want to see poems that are political in the broad sense of urgent engagement with the human condition, poems that defend human dignity,” he said.

But not all of Espada’s works deal with serious themes of misidentity and cultural strife. Others are based on personal experiences from his work and family life.

“ I’ve been a bouncer, an encyclopedia salesman, even an assistant in a primate lab,” he said. “I’m the only poet who’s ever been bitten by a monkey.”

He said these experiences are equally important in poetry because humor can be just as effective and thought-provoking as taking a serious tone.

“One of my favorite poems he read was ‘Thanksgiving’ because it was a true story that kept me interested because of how hysterical it was,” Shanda Brite, NE student, said.

Espada has published 13 books and is also an editor and translator. His book Alabanza: New and Selected Poems is available in the NE Campus Bookstore for $14.95.

His other works include The Republic of Poetry, Imagine the Angels of Bread, A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s

Kitchen, City of Coughing, Dead Radiators and Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands.

“I did a little research before I attended his reading; now I know his ability and can’t put down his book,” Brite said.

Espada also held a writing workshop the following day to help students improve their literature skills and creative writing.

Currently, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda.

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