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Vivas to Those Who Have Failed : Poems (Hardcover) (Martin Espada)

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At the heart of this powerful new collection is a series of ten poems about the life and death of the poet’s father, a civil rights activist and documentary photographer, from a jailhouse in Mississippi to the streets of Brooklyn. Defiantly political yet humorous, grounded in exquisitely wrought images, Espada’s poems confront loss both personal and communal. In mourning, the son lyrically imagines his father’s return to a bay in Puerto Rico: “May the water glow blue as a hyacinth in your hands.” Other poems articulate collective grief: after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World” urges us to “melt the bullets into bells.” The poet invokes Whitman in “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed,” to remember the striking immigrant laborers who envisioned an eight-hour day. Espada is, in the words of Sandra Cisneros, “the Pablo Neruda of North American poets.”

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