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Poet Martín Espada Rocks Silver Center with Words

By Paige Schoppmann; For the Clock
On March 4, 2018

Photo Credit: Paige Schoppmann

Some days, powerful art can heal hearts and connect people more than ever. Artistic expression, in many mediums, is both fun and cathartic for the artists who make it. But, it can also be just as pleasant and therapeutic for those absorbing and processing it. Acclaimed poet Martín Espada is a champion of art like this, with his brand of societally-conscious and devastatingly beautiful poetry.

Espada honored Plymouth State by reading his work from his newest collection “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed,” a collection of poems dedicated to his father, through the Eagle Pond Author Series at the Silver Center last Thursday.

Espada has written nearly 20 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. He has been honored with the Robert Creely Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His book of essays, “Zapata’s Disciple,” was banned in Tucson, AZ as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program by the state of Arizona, but has been issued in a new edition by Northwestern University Press.

Espada spends much of his time writing about his Puerto Rican heritage. He spoke about the “resiliency of the people” in Puerto Rico, as that is an extremely important part of its history.

Espada’s poetry ranges from being humorous, to beautifully heart-wrenching. He writes of love and loss, and is inspired greatly by his father, as well as his advocacy and social justice for the Latino and Puerto Rican community.

Espada began his emotional portion of the night with his poem “Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World: Made with the Remembrance of Sandy Hook,” which he read at Sandy Hook Elementary months after the massacre. He read poems about social justice issues such as gun control, racism, sexism and the other atrocities of the world.

As Espada spoke of his craft, he stated that he “loves poetry unabashedly,” and thought greatly about his father in his responses to the worlds of poetry, war and famine.

Espada writes free verse poetry, as well as “blackout poetry” (which he calls “lazy person poetry”), which is blacking out other portions of poems by different poets, and is included in his latest collection.

Espada ended his poetry reading with his poem to his father, entitled “Letter to my Father: October 2017.” Folding out of a trifold similar to a letter, his heart wrenching language and imagery allowed listeners to feel entirely immersed into his world of art, beauty and sadness.

For more poetry by Martín Espada, visit the Plymouth State bookstore.

The next author through the Eagle Pond Author Series will be Barbara Edelman, on April 26 at 7 p.m. in the Smith Recital Hall, and more information can be found on the Plymouth State University webpage. Visit for more information.




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