ERIE, Pa. — Martín Espada has a reputation as “the people’s poet,” and it’s easy to see why.
Espada never shies away from addressing social issues in his poetry. Instead, he embraces them, and he does so with humor.
“My use of humor is a conscious effort to defy stereotypes,” Espada said in a 2007 interview. “It’s a conscious effort, first of all, to get an audience to listen more to me. I believe that when your work contains a political or social message as my work does, you have to figure out strategies for reaching your audience.”
Espada will read excerpts from his latest collection, “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed,” on Thursday, Nov. 10, when the 2016-17 edition of the Creative Writers Reading Series resumes at Penn State Behrend. His 6 p.m. reading and the reception that will precede it are free and open to the public. Both events will be held in the Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel.
“Vivas to Those Who Have Failed” was published in 2016 and, like much of Espada’s work, addresses social issues. It includes a poem that focuses on the 1913 Paterson silk strike, where immigrant workers in New Jersey fought for better working conditions. He also addresses present-day issues, including police killings of unarmed African-Americans.
Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and previously worked as a tenant lawyer. He has been honored with several awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, and his collection “The Republic of Poetry” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Overall, Espada has published nearly 20 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator.
The Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by Penn State Behrend’s bachelor of fine arts in creative writing degree program with support from the Clarence A. and Eugenie Baumann Smith Fund. For additional information, call 814-898-6108 or visit behrend.psu.edu/readings.