Martín Espada is a rare creature: a successfully political poet. His work is often described as the poetry of advocacy; Espada speaks in the voices of those whose words and acts are so often ignored. John Bradley calls him "the true poet laureate of this nation."

Espada was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by his Puerto Rican father and Jewish mother. His father, Frank Espada, was an important civil rights leader and Puerto Rican activist; Martín describes him as "the one-time leader of a million Puerto Ricans in New York City." This invaluable influence led to Martín Espada's activism. He studied history at the University of Wisconsin and received his law degree from Northeastern University Law School in 1985. He worked as a tenant lawyer in eastern Massachusetts until he was appointed professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Espada's six books of poetry have been widely honored. Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover's Hands won the PEN/Revson award and the Paterson Poetry Prize in 1989, and Imagine the Angels of Bread won the American Book Award in 1997. His most recent collection of poetry, A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen, was published to rave reviews in 2000. Yusef Komunyakaa writes, "A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen recalibrates history till a scary clarity stares us in the eyes. We cannot play ignorant as we face Espada's music and imagery in these point-blank poems." Russell Banks also praises Espada, declaring, "His ambition and his achievement remind us of Whitman, where it all begins."

Espada is also an essayist, translator, and editor. He lives with his wife and son and teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Poems by Martín Espada


The Mexican Cabdriver

Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz, California, May 3, 1877




    Poetry Center Readings:

Fall 2001 (with Richard Blanco)


Fall 2003 - Celebration of Walt Whitman

       (with Kate Rushin & Galway Kinnell)