Poet Martin Espada arrives on campus on Thursday, April 24, for a special appearance titled “Martin Espada: The Aesthetics of Advocacy” at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater. Admission is free.
“Our goal is to showcase Latino contributions to U.S. culture,” said event organizer Victor Rodriguez, professor of Chicano and Latino Studies and a member of the university since 2000. “This is an effort by this department to talk about what is positive about those contributions. I’ve been impressed by his poetry for several years and how his poetry succeeds without stridency. This is a poet who talks about basic, important human issues.”
Espada was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1957. He has published 13 books as a poet, essayist, editor and translator. His eighth collection of poems, The Republic of Poetry, was published by Norton in 2006. Of this new collection, critic Samuel Hazo writes: "Espada unites in these poems the fierce allegiances of Latin American poetry to freedom and glory with the democratic tradition of Whitman, and the result is poetry of fire and passionate intelligence." His book, Alabanza: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2002 received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was named an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. An earlier collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread from Norton in 1996, won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
His other books of poetry include A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen, City of Coughing and Dead Radiators and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands. He has received the Robert Creeley Award, the Antonia Pantoja Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, the Charity Randall Citation, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and two NEA Fellowships. He recently earned a 2006 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
“Espada is considered to be one of America’s most important poets as well as a Latino poet,” said Rodriguez. “When the centenary of Chilean Nobel Prize winning novelist Pablo Neruda was celebrated, Espada was invited to participate as an American educator.”
Rodriguez hopes Espada’s appearance serves as a role model for poets at CSULB. “This is the kind of poetry that can express important themes and can touch the intellect as well as the heart,” he explained. “Espada does this in a very powerful way and with such subjects as the death of Latino kitchen workers in the fall of the Twin Towers. This is very intelligent poetry.”
Rodriguez expressed his thanks for the support the department has received from the Division of Student Services and the College of Liberal Arts. “Plus, we are co-sponsoring Espada’s appearance with the English Department,” he said. “This has been an opportunity for a great collaborative process. It’s going to be great.”
Espada’s visit demonstrates the strength of Chicano and Latino Studies. “We do a little bit of everything,” Rodriguez said. “We are the only ethnic study department that has its own international study program, which we demonstrated in the last seven years hosting trips for more than 120 CSULB students to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Next summer, we hope to reach out to Venezuela, Puerto Rico and/or the Dominican Republic. Events like the Espada reading offers chances to build bridges across different cultures and to create the kind of relationships we need to make as we move into the 21st century.”
Rodriguez encourages anyone who loves poetry and wants to reach out to a larger world to attend the April 24 event. “If CSULB students, faculty and staff really want to see an absolutely enthralling and engaging poet, this is the time to do it,” he said. “It represents not only a contribution to CSULB, but offers an anchor for several statewide appearances. This reinforces our international reputation. If residents on and off campus want to have a great time and an intellectual challenge, this is their event.”