Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Martín Espada is the author of more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. A former tenant lawyer in the Greater Boston area’s Latino community, he received a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and a JD from Northeastern University in 1985.
Espada published his first poetry collection,The Immigrant Iceboy’s Bolero (Waterfront Press), in 1982. Among his other books of poetry are Floaters (W. W. Norton, 2021), which received the National Book Award in Poetry in 2021; Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (W. W. Norton, 2016); The Trouble Ball (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 Imagine the Angels of Bread (W. W. Norton, 1996), winner of an American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Espada has also published multiple essay collections, including What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (Curbstone Books 2, 2019); The Lover of a Subversive Is Also a Subversive (University of Michigan Press, 2010); and edited three anthologies, including Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination (Curbstone, 1994). In 2004, he released a CD of poetry called Now the Dead will Dance the Mambo (Leapfrog).
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.
Espada has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a 2021 Letras Boricuas Fellowship, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, an International Latino Book Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2018, he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. He is currently a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.