Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Espada is a poet, a lawyer, and a teacher. No matter what professional hat Espada has worn, he always has strived to fight for social justice. His first book of poetry, The Immigrant Iceboy’s Bolero, was published in 1982. With each critically acclaimed collection of poems that followed, Espada continues to give voice to the oppressed Latinos who have struggled to carve out a life for themselves and their families. Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands won both the 1990 PEN/Revson Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize. “Latin Night at the Pawnshop” is only one of the poignant free verse poems that fill the collection. Never shrill or pedantic, the poet paints vivid portraits of Latinos who have been wronged in one way or another. While political poetry can tend to put readers on edge, Espada’s success as a poet stems from his ability to tell the human story behind any tragedy. He stated that he does not wish for anger to “overwhelm a poem or group of poems.” While intensity of feeling is one of Espada’s strengths as a poet, he never goes about hammering a reader over the head with a strident diatribe that would only do a disservice to the subject matter.

Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands is divided into two sections: “If Only History Were Like Your Hands” and “To Skin the Hands of God.” “Latin Night at the Pawnshop” is one of the twenty-two poems that can be found in the first section....

(The entire section is 432 words.)