Wick Poetry Center hosts Poet Martin Espada

Jason Meek

Poet and activist Martín Espada will speak  Thursday as a part of Kent State’s Symposium on Democracy.

Espada will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the KIVA, presenting a speech titled “The Unacknowledged Legislator: A Rebuttal” and reading a selection of his poetry.

The title of the speech is based on a quote from poet Percy Shelley. Shelley was a very political poet, Espada said, but those themes are often ignored when he is discussed today. Espada said that poets are well qualified to bring about radical change because of their ability to persuade us and stir emotion.

“Poetry humanizes,” Espada said, “It takes that great big abstraction like ‘democracy’ or ‘justice’ and gives it a human face.”

Many people, including poets themselves, often underestimate the capacity of poetry to move people and create change, said Espada.

Espada considers himself a “poet advocate,” and his poetry often describes the experiences of low-income people, immigrants and minorities. In his work as a lawyer, Espada said he often witnessed the experiences of these people.

“I believe that for a democracy to function, we have to hear from as many voices as possible,” said Espada, “We have to especially hear the voices of the voiceless.”

As a poet, essayist and professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Espada considers it a responsibility to speak out for those who cannot be heard.

“I’m in a relatively fortunate position in that I have a platform,” Espada said.

Espada has also been involved in “Poets Against the War,” an anti-war movement that started in 2003 to protest the war in Iraq.

Espada said that the symposium will be an opportunity to discuss democracy and present a point of view regarding how justice happens that students may not be exposed to every day.

David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, considers Espada’s poetry to be highly accessible as well as relevant to the symposium’s themes of social justice and equality.

“Espada’s poetry offers us a vision for a better, more equitable and compassionate society,” Hassler said. “This vision is essential in helping us imagine a better world.”

More information on Martín Espada, as well as a sample of his poetry, can be found at http://www.martinespada.net/.

Contact Jason Meek at [email protected].