floaters book cover

Acclaimed Poet and Professor Martín Espada to Deliver Reading on May 2

AMHERST, Mass.— The University of Massachusetts Amherst English Department presents a reading by acclaimed poet and professor Martín Espada on Monday, May 2, at 5 p.m. at Old Chapel.  

A black and white photograph of a bearded and smiling Martín Espada at Bowery Poetry (photo by David González)
UMass Amherst professor Martín Espada

Espada will read from his award-winning collection “Floaters,” which won the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A book signing and reception will follow the event, which is free and open to the public. Registration is required

​​A celebrated advocate for social justice and University of Massachusetts Amherst English professor, Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems, “Floaters,” takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drowned while trying to cross over into the U.S. The title poem responds to the viral photograph of Óscar and Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Río Grande, and to allegations posted in the “I’m 10-15” Border Patrol Facebook group that the photo was faked. 

“I am sometimes struck speechless. You sometimes wonder if words are going to be enough,” Espada says. “But then you write the next poem. What choice do we have? Silence is not acceptable.” 

The collection runs from scathing socio-political commentary to homages of family and love, with its poems described by reviewers as “both sardonic and breathtaking” and “a work of grace-laden defiance.”  

“Professor Espada has spent his life fighting in one way or another for the powerless, the poor, the vulnerable immigrant, people who have been shut up and shut out,” says Randall Knoper, chair of the English department. “People sometimes think that poetry is simply not read, and therefore has little social impact, or people think that literature generally and poetry in particular make very little difference in the sphere of hard political and economic facts. Professor Espada is a believer in the power of poetry and the power of the imagination to conjure a more just society, and his poetry itself embodies and instills an emotional intensity that can generate commitment to social justice and change. Professor Espada makes poetry matter, personally, and communally.”  

Espada’s other books of poetry include “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed” (2016); “The Trouble Ball” (2011); “The Republic of Poetry” (2006); and “Alabanza” (2003). He is the editor of “What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump” (2019). Espada has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, a Letras Boricuas Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  

“The Republic of Poetry” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection “Alabanza,” about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona.  

Espada has dedicated himself to the pursuit of social justice and fighting for the rights of Latino/a communities. He cites his greatest influence as his father, Frank Espada, a community organizer, civil rights activist and documentary photographer who created the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project. 

Register for the event here