Espada's poetry has survived everything from censorship by National Public Radio to a bomb threat at a reading. In his essay "All Things Censored," he describes how NPR commissioned him to write a poem, then refused to air the work because of its political content: a defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African-American journalist on death row. In "The Poetics of Commerce," Espada takes on the Nike corporation, which solicited a poem for use in a television commercial as part of the company's ongoing propaganda campaign to divert attention from its dismal human rights record in Asian sweatshops.
Espada stirs together ingredients of memoir and reclaimed history in "Postcard from the Empire of Queen Ixolib," which recalls his pilgrimage to the town in Mississippi where his father was jailed half a century ago for not moving to the back of the bus. He also pays homage to "Poets of the Political Imagination"--a force throughout the Americas rooted in the traditions of Neruda and Whitman--and reflects on the political imagination as a catalyst in the creation of his own poetry.
A dozen of Espada's poems, old and new, weave themselves through the essays in Zapata's Disciple. In a voice charged with anger, humor, and compassion, Espada unleashes his words--following Walt Whitman's dictum on what poets should do--"to cheer up slaves and horrify despots."
About: The ferocious acumen with which the award-winning poet MartÃn Espada attacks issues of social injustice in Zapataâs Disciple makes it no surprise that the book has been the subject of bans in both Arizona and Texas, targeted for its presence in the Mexican American Studies curriculum of Tucsonâs schools and for its potential to incite a riot among Texas prison populations.
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