The Republic of Poetry
In his eighth collection of poems, a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, Martín Espada celebrates the power of poetry itself. The Republic of Poetry is a place of odes and elegies, collective memory and hidden history, miraculous happenings and redemptive justice.
Called by Sandra Cisneros “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors,” Espada traveled to Chile in July 2004 to take part in the commemoration of the Neruda centenary. The heart of the new collection is a cycle of Chile poems. This is a narrative of creation, destruction and redemption: Neruda’s house in Santiago, wrecked by the military during the coup and rehabilitated in a democratic Chile; Joan Jara walking through the stadium where her husband Víctor was executed after singing for his fellow prisoners; the young poets who rent a helicopter and “bomb” the national palace with poetry on bookmarks; the disgraced dictator Augusto Pinochet, jeered leaving a used bookstore.
The Republic of Poetry is a land where poets return from the dead. Robert Creeley shares a cigarette with Henry David Thoreau; Clemente Soto Vélez visits in a dream and urges a pilgrimage to the caves of Puerto Rico; Julia de Burgos speaks to a man in jail, who paints her face on an envelope. This is a land of miracles, where the God of the Weather-Beaten Face frees Carlos Mejía--an Iraq war veteran turned conscientious objector—-from incarceration, and Captain Ahab himself leads a rather demanding poetry workshop in Provincetown.
“What a tender, marvelous collection. First, that broken, glorious journey into the redemptive heart of my Chile, and then, as if that had not been enough, the many gates of epiphanies and sorrows being opened again and again, over and over.” --Ariel Dorfman
“The Republic of Poetry is a dreamland, a utopia, a paradise of the imagination, where the local food is salutation and valediction, where the bloodstained plazas speak history, and where the law of the land is empathy. Martín Espada, like his spiritual forebear Pablo Neruda, names us all, in his every hard-fought line, to our citizenship in this nation of the great, indelibly American word.” –Rafael Campo
“Martín Espada’s big-hearted poems reconfirm a ‘Republic of Poetry’ that is truly pan-American, drawing on its many traditions and daring to insist upon its dreams of justice and mercy even during the age of perpetual war. His poetry is earned and his gift is generous.” --Sam Hamill
“Espada means ‘sword’ in Spanish, and in these new poems Martín Espada wields the sword of his poetry like a veritable Zorro. The ghost of Allende rises, the ‘disappeared’ reappear, and the legacies of Neruda and Creeley say why they are not dead. Espada unites in these poems the fierce allegiances of Latin American poetry to freedom and glory with the democratic tradition of Whitman, and the result is a poetry of fire and passionate intelligence.” --Samuel Hazo