Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Born on August 7, 1957, in Brooklyn, New York, to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother, Martín Espada grew up in Brooklyn. His father, Frank Espada, became active in the Civil Rights movement during the 1950’s. During the 1960’s, he took his son to protest meetings and rallies in an effort to educate him as to the political and social struggle that minorities must wage against prejudice, racism, and indifference. A leader in the Puerto Rican community of New York City, he later became a noted photographer. Through his father, the young Martín Espada learned about the need to fight against injustice.
Espada began writing poetry when he was fifteen. He has stated that he found writing to be even more important than sleeping. Some of the odd jobs that Espada held as a young man include a bindery worker, a groundskeeper for a minor-league baseball ballpark, a night desk clerk, and a bouncer in a bar. Each of these experiences allowed him to witness the difficulties that people of color encounter on a daily basis in the United States. The many diverse settings helped him to be what Espada calls a “spy.” He made the most of being a keen observer. The “mental notes” he made eventually were turned into poems. In 1981, Espada was graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a B.A. in history. He then went on to earn his law degree from Boston’s Northeastern University School of Law in 1985. After earning his law degree, Espada...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Martín Espada (ehs-PAH-dah) was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by a Jewish mother and a Puerto Rican father. During the 1950’s his father, Frank Espada, became active in the Civil Rights movement. Born in Puerto Rico, Espada’s father also became one of the leaders of New York City’s Puerto Rican community. Frank Espada taught his son to recognize how difficult it has been for minorities to make a living in the United States. Martín Espada came to appreciate the need for people of color to fight against injustice and poverty. His father took his young son to political rallies. At fifteen, Espada began to write poetry. In interviews, he has stated that he became obsessed with writing and that he would rather work on a poem than even sleep.
As a young adult, he held many odd jobs to help make a living, working as groundskeeper for a minor league baseball park, bouncer in a bar, and bindery worker. Through his own hard work, he witnessed firsthand the many obstacles which people of color must try to overcome. Espada learned to be a “keen observer.” He received a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1981 and earned a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in 1985. He went to work at a legal-aid office, Su Clinica Legal, located in the Boston area. His wife, Katherine, gave birth to a son in 1991. Since 1993, Espada has been an English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother. His father, a photographer whose pictures have been featured in Espada’s volumes of poetry, aspired to play professional baseball. His disappointment over not having realized that goal (a difficult one for a dark-skinned Puerto Rican in the late 1940s) influenced the young Espada, and he later wrote about the experiences of his father in the poem “Tato Hates the New York Yankees.” Espada’s first book of poetry, The Immigrant Iceboy’s Bolero, published in 1984, reflects the experiences of Spanish- speaking migrants. A tenant lawyer in Boston, Espada continues to write socially and politically informed poetry.
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Former tenant lawyer, poet, and professor Martín Espada was born in 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother. He received his bachelor of art degree in history at the University of Wisconsin and a juris doctor degree in law from Northeastern University in Boston. Before working as a lawyer and advocate for the renting poor, Espada held jobs as a salesman, clerk, telephone solicitor, gas station attendant, bouncer, and bartender. Although Espada gave up his law career to devote himself full-time to writing and teaching, he did not abandon political activism; he merely changed the means through which he practices it. At a time when most poets have turned inward to explore the nuances of an angst-ridden self, Espada has turned outward, writing about the injustices done to other people and advocating change.
Espada began writing when he was sixteen, as a means of self-discovery and a way of coming to terms with the hostile community in which he lived. His poetry speaks out against poverty and racism while trying to avoid being strident or preachy—a failing of much so-called political poetry. Espada is a staunch advocate for Puerto Rican independence and has supported a number of other controversial causes, including the case of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. Poems such as “Colibrí,” from his collection Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (1990), show rather than tell about the subjugation of the...
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