Zapata's Disciple: Essays

Zapata's Disciple: Essays

Zapata's Disciple: Essays

Zapata's Disciple: Essays

Synopsis

Martin Espada's commitment to equality and fairness is both courageous and controversial; his outspoken poems regularly touch off firestorms, as well as the occasional bomb threat. In his first collection of essays, the award-winning poet turns his sharp wit and fierce critical eye toward current political debates and culture wars. In his essay "All Things Censored", he describes how National Public Radio commissioned him to write a poem on any topic, then refused to air his work based on its political content. In another essay, he wittily exposes the Nike corporation's public relations use of poetry to divert attention away from their dismal labor and human rights record. Whether the subject is a few lines of poetry or acts of criminal proportions, Espada unleashes his words as beautiful, powerful weapons in the fight against hypocrisy, injustice, and apathy.

Excerpt

In December 1949, in Biloxi, Mississippi, my father was arrested for not going to the back of the bus. A darkskinned Puerto Rican raised in New York, he did not accept the laws of Jim Crow. A judge sentenced him to a week in jail. This is what he learned: 1) he would be branded for the rest of his life by the brown pigment of his skin; and 2) he would fight. He would rather sit in jail than at the back of the bus.

My father's social class was defined by the opportunities denied him because of racism, and the opportunities he created for himself in spite of racism; the assignment of a servile status based on skin color, and his furious rejection of that status, for himself and others. His experiences--the frustrations and rages, the stubborn resistance, the dignity of his defiance--formed the environment in which I evolved, as son and poet, contributing to my awareness of class and its punishments.

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