In his first collection of essays, award-winning poet MartA-n Espada turns his fierce critical eye toward a broad range of urgent political and cultural issues. With the same insight and integrity displayed in his poetry, he chronicles many struggles of the Latino community: the myths and realities of machismo, the backlash against Latino immigrants and the Spanish language, the borders of racism, and U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.
Espada's poetry has survived everything from censorship by National Public Radio to a bomb threat at a reading. In his essay "All Things Censored," he describes how NPR commissioned him to write a poem, then refused to air the work because of its political content: a defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African-American journalist on death row. In "The Poetics of Commerce," Espada takes on the Nike corporation, which solicited a poem for use in a television commercial as part of the company's ongoing propaganda campaign to divert attention from its dismal human rights record in Asian sweatshops.
Espada stirs together ingredients of memoir and reclaimed history in "Postcard from the Empire of Queen Ixolib," which recalls his pilgrimage to the town in Mississippi where his father was jailed half a century ago for not moving to the back of the bus. He also pays homage to "Poets of the Political Imagination"--a force throughout the Americas rooted in the traditions of Neruda and Whitman--and reflects on the political imagination as a catalyst in the creation of his own poetry.
A dozen of Espada's poems, old and new, weave themselves through the essays in "Zapata's Disciple." In a voice charged with anger, humor, and compassion, Espada unleashes his words--following Walt Whitman's dictum on what poets should do--"to cheer up slaves and horrify despots."