Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (Paperback)
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393353952, 96pp.
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
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In this powerful new collection of poems, Mart n Espada articulates the transcendent vision of another, possible world. He invokes the words of Whitman in "Vivas to Those Who Have Failed," a cycle of sonnets about the Paterson Silk Strike and the immigrant laborers who envisioned an eight-hour workday. At the heart of this volume is a series of ten poems about the death of the poet's father. "El Moriviv " uses the metaphor of a plant that grows in Puerto Rico to celebrate the many lives of Frank Espada, community organizer, civil rights activist, and documentary photographer, from a jailhouse in Mississippi to the streets of Brooklyn. The son lyrically imagines his father's return to a bay in Puerto Rico: "May the water glow blue as a hyacinth in your hands." Other poems confront collective grief in the wake of the killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and police violence against people of color: "Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World" urges us to "melt the bullets into bells." Yet the poet also revels in the absurd, recalling his dubious career as a Shakespearean "actor," finding madness and tenderness in the crowd at Fenway Park. In exquisitely wrought images, Espada's poems show us the faces of Whitman's "numberless unknown heroes."