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2016

Two by Martín Espada

February 5, 6 pm
Vivas to Those Who Have Failed: A Book Launch and Reading
Celebrate the launch of a powerful new collection of poems that gives voice to the spirit of endurance in the face of loss and articulates the transcendent vision of another, possible world. Espada 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 day. The heart of the book is a series of 10 poems about the death of the poet’s father, one of Whitman’s “numberless unknown heroes.” “El Moriviví” uses the metaphor of a plant that grows in Puerto Rico and the meaning of its name—“I died/I lived”—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. Other poems confront collective grief, in the wake of the killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and police violence against people of color. Yet the poet also revels in the absurd, recalling his dubious “career” as a Shakespearean actor in a brawling company, finding madness and tenderness in the crowd at Fenway Park.  In the words of Junot Díaz, this is “Espada at his brilliant best, the poet laureate of our New America, with a voice that breaks heart, gives courage and burns all illusions.”  Free and open to the public.

February 6, 6 pm
I’ve Known Rivers: Speaking of the Unspoken Places in Poetry: A Lecture

General Admission $10/Students $5 in advance or at the door. Reservations recommended: seating limited.

There are unspoken places all around us, places we never see, or see but do not see—hidden histories, haunted landscapes, forgotten graves, places of pilgrimage where pilgrimage is impossible. Speaking of such places in terms of history and mythology, memory and redemption, poets pose difficult questions: Who benefits from silence and forgetting? Who benefits from speaking and remembering? How do we make the invisible visible? How do we sing of the world buried beneath us? How do we soak up the ghosts through the soles of our feet?

Called by Sandra Cisneros “the Pablo Neruda of North American poets, “ Martín Espada has published almost 20 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator, including The Trouble Ball (2011); The Republic of Poetry, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (2006);  Alabanza (2003); A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993); and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (1990). His many honors include the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, will be reissued in a new edition this fall. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Cave Canem
20 Jay Street, Suite 310-A
Brooklyn, NY


February 19, 5 pm
New Works Reading
Join us for an evening of exceptional poetry with Tonya M. Foster and Cave Canem fellows Nate Marshall and Phillip B. Williams. Foster is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), called by Patricia Spears Jones a “well-built house of words.” Marshall’s Wild Hundreds (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), won the 2014 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and Williams’ Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, 2016) has been praised by Adrian Matejka as “a rare poetic event that transcends our expectations.” Free and open to the public.

New York University
Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
58 W 10th Street
New York, NY 10003

Teaching artist, performance poet, editor, and activist for social justice, Nate Marshall starred in the award-winning documentary Louder Than a Bomb and has been featured in the HBO Original Series “Brave New Voices.” The recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize, a 2015 Ruth Lilly/Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, the 2014 Hurston/ Wright Founding Members Award and the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, he is the author of Unconditional Like (2010), Blood Percussion (2014), and most recently, Wild Hundreds (2015), about which Patrick Rosal writes, “ ‘The Hundreds’ is a place, a people, and one way to define centuries. ‘Wild’ is an epithet-become-style. Ergo, Wild Hundreds is a style of centuries. If our third millennium lyric ever comes to terms with America, it will have to accommodate symbols and syntax once denigrated and dismissed. With his dynamic new collection, Nate Marshall is making space. And it’s wild.”

Harlem resident Tonya M. Foster is a co-editor of Third Mind: Creative Writing through Visual Art and a PhD candidate at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she studies the poetics of place. Of her debut collection of poems, Sueyeun Juliette Lee writes, “A Swarm of Bees in High Court offers us a new waking dream of Harlem, one pregnant with its heat, streets, and contentious voices. It verges, folds, and concatenates with an excess of living voices and possibilities .  . . Her work challenges me to walk through the deep cuts of life at its most affirming, heart rent, and bitter levels. She turns away from the fantasy of an urban utopia to offer instead a site of various, sometimes frustrated desires, of tenderness and a truly living black community.”

Phillip Williams is the co-author of Prime (Sibling Rivalry Press), a book of poems and conversations, and poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl. A recipient of a Bread Loaf Writers Conference scholarship and a 2013 Ruth Lilly fellowship, he is a Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University. Rachel Eliza Griffith lauds the poetry in his recently published collection Thief in the Interior as “. . . lucid, unmitigated humanity, a voice for whom language is inadequate, yet necessarily grasped , shaped and consumed.”