Mercy. Last night I saw Martin Espada and it was so awesome I don't even want to write about it. But I will. Although he's Puerto Rican and not Asian (the supposed focus of this blog), he is of course one hell of an activist...besides, he blurbed Ishle Yi Park's book so I feel cleared to write about it.
The man is powerful. The poems are so rich and in my mind, prophetic. His command reminded me of the time I saw I Philip Levine read for a prison benefit. Espada's poems of course embody the political imagination of resistance (this is the Espada of Poetry Like Bread, after all), and he read the great poems "Alabanza" and "Imagine the Angels of Bread." He's also funny as anybody. He read "Thanksgiving," the hilarious poem about dinner with his in-laws, using different voices in a pretty theatrical way. He won some National Poetry Slam once, right?
Then he read some new, unpublished stuff...amazing poems based on his travel, as part of an invited group of ambassadors, to Chile. He spoke about how revered poets are in that part of the world. I remember travelling through South and Central America noticing this myself. People everywhere know who Ernesto Cardenal and Claribel Alegria are. People have "favorite poets" there like we have favorite singers here. I guess it's double whammy in America, since no one here knows much about soccer either. I am a poet. And I played soccer for my college. How sad.
Anyway, a long way from Chile, here in Fresno, Martin Espada gave one of the best readings I have ever seen. Best seven bucks I've spent. The MFA director, the awesome poet Connie Hales, is to be congratulated for assembling such an awesome lineup (Carbo, Duhamel, Espada, and Eugene Gloria). It's refreshing to have such a diverse slate. Espada got a lengthy standing ovation upon reading his last poem. It was well-deserved and a testimony to the spirit of his reading.