April 11 Pitt Event Explores “People’s Poetry/People’s History” With Two Nationally Renowned, Award-Winning Authors

Issue Date: 
April 8, 2013

Critics credit the poetry of acclaimed author Martín Espada—a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has often been referred to as the Latino poet of his generation—with creating a broader cultural awareness of the battles against repressive governments waged by people throughout Latin America. 
Pitt Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker, himself an activist in social justice movements who has transformed people’s understanding of the Atlantic slave trade and the successful Amistad slave rebellion, has been called “The Atlantic’s foremost historian from below,” focusing on the roles ordinary people play in history.

Together, Espada and Rediker will participate in a free public event, “People’s Poetry/People’s History,” at 7:30 p.m. April 11 in Room 2500 Posvar Hall. Samuel Hazo, founder of the International Poetry Forum and McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University, will serve as moderator. 

The event will offer an opportunity for longtime friends and co-activists Espada and Rediker to explore how people’s history—a narrative emphasizing the importance of everyday people in social and political movements and the poetry inspired by those struggles—can contribute to “movements from below.” Through conversation, readings, and responses to questions, the writers will comment on the inspiration they draw from one another’s work and how they came to see both history and poetry as important to politics past, present, and future.

The event is sponsored by Pitt’s Department of History and Humanities Center and will be followed by a book signing by both authors and a reception. For more information, call (412) 648-7451.

About Martín Espada

Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother. A former tenant lawyer with a law degree from Northeastern University and a BA degree in history from the University of Wisconsin, he has published more than 15 books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. His book The Republic of Poetry (Norton, 2006) received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His 1996 poetry collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011), is the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award, and an International Latino Book Award. Espada’s recognitions also include the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. 

Among Espada’s other books of poems are A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (Norton, 2000), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (Norton, 1993), and Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990). His work has been translated into 10 other languages; collections of his poems have recently been published in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Chile. 

About Marcus Rediker

A preeminent scholar of early American history and Atlantic history, Rediker joined the Pitt history department faculty in 1994 and served as department chair from 2007 to 2010. In 2009, he was a senior scholar in residence at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. In The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Viking-Penguin, 2012), Rediker draws on previously unknown evidence to sketch vivid portraits of the African slaves who in 1839 commandeered the Spanish schooner Amistad while at sea. The rebels were eventually caught by the U.S. Navy, tried, and set free. Rediker’s book honors their extraordinary historic achievement.

Rediker has written, cowritten, or edited six other books, including The Slave Ship: A Human History (Viking-Penguin, 2007), the definitive work on the Atlantic slave trade that won the 2008 George Washington Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College, and Mount Vernon; the 2008 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians; and the James A. Rawley Prize from the American Historical Association. His writings have been translated into 12 other languages. In addition to receiving numerous book prizes, Rediker has been awarded fellowships by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew P. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2008, the Organization of American Historians named him distinguished lecturer. Rediker received three degrees in history—a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.