the louderARTS Project

credit: Paul Shoul

Martín Espada

Sandra Cisneros says, "Martín Espada is the Pablo Neruda of North American authors." Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. He has published thirteen books in all as a poet, editor and translator. His eighth book of poems is called The Republic of Poetry, forthcoming from W.W. Norton. His last collection, Alabanza: New and Selected Poems (1982-2002) was published by Norton in 2003, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was named an American Library Association Notable Book of the year. An earlier collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other books of poetry include A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen (Norton, 2000), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (Norton, 1993), and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover's Hands (Curbstone, 1990). He has received numerous awards, including the Robert Creeley Award, the Antonia Pantoja Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Charity Randall Citation, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and two NEA Fellowships. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, The Nation, and The Best American Poetry. He has also published a collection of essays, 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 (University of Massachusetts, 1997); and released an audiobook of poetry called Now the Dead will Dance the Mambo (Leapfrog, 2004). A former tenant lawyer, Espada is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda.


martinespada.net

Martín Espada's October 16th reading at louderARTS is sponsored in part by Poets & Writers and the New York State Council on the Arts
          




City of Glass

          For Pablo Neruda and Matilde Urrutia
          La Chascona, Santiago de Chile

The poet's house was a city of glass:
cranberry glass, milk glass, carnival glass,
red and green goblets row after row,
black luster of wine in bottles,
ships in bottles, zoo of bottles,
rooster, horse, monkey, fish,
heartbeat of clocks tapping against crystal,
windows illuminated by the white Andes ,
observatory of glass over Santiago .

When the poet died,
they brought his coffin to the city of glass.
There was no door: the door was a thousand daggers,
beyond the door an ancient world in ruins,
glass now arrowheads, axes, pottery shards, dust.
There were no windows: fingers of air
reached for glass like a missing lover's face.
There was no zoo: the bottles were half-moons
and quarter-moons, horse and monkey
eviscerated with every clock, with every lamp.
Bootprints spun in a lunatic tango across the floor.

The poet's widow said, We will not sweep the glass.
His wake is here.
Reporters, photographers,
intellectuals, ambassadors stepped across the glass
cracking like a frozen lake, and soldiers too,
who sacked the city of glass,
returned to speak for their general,
three days of official mourning
announced at the end of the third day.

In Chile , a river of glass bubbled, cooled,
hardened, and rose in sheets, only to crash and rise again.
One day, years later, the soldiers wheeled around
to find themselves in a city of glass.
Their rifles turned to carnival glass;
bullets dissolved, glittering, in their hands.
From the poet's zoo they heard monkeys cry;
from the poet's observatory they heard
poem after poem like a call to prayer.
The general's tongue burned with slivers
invisible to the eye. The general's tongue
was the color of cranberry glass.



© Martín Espada



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