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.