Niggerlips was the high school name for me. So called by Douglas the car mechanic, with green tattoos on each forearm, and the choir of round pink faces that grinned deliciously from the back row of classrooms, droned over by teachers checking attendance too slowly. Douglas would brag about cruising his car
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Martín Espada is the author of more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator, including The Trouble Ball: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2011), which was the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award, and an International Latino Book Award; The Republic of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2006), which received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and Alabanza: New and Selected Poems: 1982-2002 (W. W. Norton, 2003), which was named an American Library Association Notable Book of the year. His earlier collections include Imagine the Angels of Bread (W. W. Norton, 1996), winner of an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (W. W. Norton, 2000); City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (W. W. Norton, 1993); and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990).
Espada has also published two collection of essays: The Lover of a Subversive Is Also a Subversive (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and Zapata’s Disciple (South End, 1998); edited two anthologies, Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination from Curbstone Press (Curbstone, 1994) and El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry (1997); and released a CD of poetry called Now the Dead will Dance the Mambo (Leapfrog, 2004).
About Espada's work, the poet Gary Soto has said, "Martín Espada has chosen the larger task: to go outside the self-absorbed terrain of most contemporary poets into a landscape where others—bus drivers, revolutionaries, the executed of El Salvador—sit, walk, or lie dead 'without heads.' There's no rest here. We're jostled awake by the starkness of these moments, but occasionally roll from Espada's political humor."
He has received numerous awards, including the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Robert Creeley Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Antonia Pantoja Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, and two NEA Fellowships.
A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer in the Greater Boston's Latino community, Espada is currently a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.