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 worked as a tenant lawyer near Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was a supervisor for a legal-aid office, Su Clinica Legal, that served a clientele of primarily Spanish-speaking residents. In 1991, his wife, Katherine, gave birth to a son. Espada became an English professor on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1993, where he has taught courses on Latino poetry and creative writing. Taking inspiration from those who came before him, he also has continued to take public stands against injustice at every turn.
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.
His first collection of poetry, The Immigrant Iceboy’s Bolero, was published in 1982. For his first collection, Espada included some of his father’s photographs. The title poem tells the story of his father coming to the United States. When Frank Espada was merely nine years old, he had to carry blocks of ice up flights of stairs in tenement buildings in his adopted...
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