The Writer’s Block: A Video Q&A with Martin Espada

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“Poet-lawyer” Martin Espada published his first book of poems in 1982, immediately before beginning law school at Northeastern University. Upon graduating, he became a tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community. Eventually, he left the law and became a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he still teaches. In all, he has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator.

His 1998 book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple, has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), and Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996). He has been the recipient of many honors, including the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an American Book Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Martin Espada’s forthcoming collection of poems from W.W. Norton is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), the title derived from a line written by his favorite poet, Walt Whitman.

Martin Espada visited City of Asylum in October of 2015 to read new poems from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Sampsonia Way interviewed Martin about his new work, his activism, and the modern academy’s impact on poetry’s revolutionary potential.

  1. About The Writer’s Block
  2. The Writer’s Block is an ongoing video series of interviews with visiting writers at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. In these Q&A’s, conducted on Sampsonia Way, writers sit down with us to discuss literature, their craft, and career.
  3. Read the transcript→
  4. View all previous interviews →

About the Author

Sampsonia Way is an online magazine sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh that seeks to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of life.

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