Great literature often examines the predominant political and social conditions that mark a writer’s lifetime. Reinforcing that truth, Martín Espada, known as the “people’s poet,” has been awarded the prestigeous 2018 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

The annual Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is awarded by the Poetry Foundation to honor a living U.S. poet “whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition.” Espada has advocated social justice all his life — as son of a civil rights activist, human rights attorney, university professor, and poet

Though defiantly and insistently political, his work is also known for its gentle humor. Richard Blanco has commented, “Espada’s poems continue to define the role of the poet as an emotional historian. Like Whitman, Espada stirs in us an undeniable social consciousness and connectedness.”

Martín Espada Biography | Poetry Foundation

Revered Poet Martín Espada Reflects on Struggles Past & Present […] | Democracy Now!

Get a taste of Martín Espada and his poetry from the excellent 2016 Democracy Now! interview. You must not miss Espada’s reading of the memorial poem he wrote for his father. It’s an enthralling ballad or story, bittersweet, filled with a son’s love, pride, and wonder for his father — and at the same time, reflects the history of the American Civil Rights movement.

The acclaimed “people’s poet” and professor Martín Espada has been compared to Pablo Neruda and is widely known as the Latino poet of his generation. In his latest collection of poetry, “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed,”—a title taken from a line by Walt Whitman—Espada begins with a tribute to the 1913 Paterson silk strike, when a group of mostly immigrant workers in New Jersey fought for improved working conditions and an eight-hour workday. He goes on to address struggles and injustices up to the present day, including the police killings of unarmed African Americans and the spate of U.S. mass shootings. Espada also pays tribute to his late father, the legendary photojournalist, teacher and activist Frank Espada. Espada joins us for a discussion and reading of his poetry.

~ Democracy Now!

Social Reality in Poetry


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