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His dictator persona envisions a time when he and the statue will fall—and fall they did, after four decades of the Somoza dictatorship.

Cardenal’s poem also represents another responsibility he embraces: to articulate the impossible.

(This is a useful distraction when the train breaks down.) In 2014, I finally discovered the virtues of writing in tranquility. As a poet with a background in law, I am obsessed with the philosophy, the poetics, and the practice of justice.

My father had died, and I had to write a poem for his memorial service. The police once detained me in a parking lot on suspicion of stealing my own car. I am obsessed with what Whitman calls “the rights of them the others are down upon.” He proclaims: “Through me many long dumb voices.” I write in that vein of advocacy.

When did being a writer begin to inform your sense of identity?

It was a gradual process, but if I had to pick one pivotal date, it would be August 3, 1986, four days before my 29th birthday.

His latest collection of poems is, was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona.

A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.I found a writers’ retreat in the Northeast Kingdom, in a small town called Craftsbury, Vermont, where I wrote “El Moriviví,” the poem I read at my father’s memorial, and other poems about him that form the heart of my next book, Have you ever been arrested? I was working as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman at the time, which is a suspicious activity, I suppose. The late Uruguayan journalist and historian Eduardo Galeano did likewise, saying: “I write for those who cannot read me: the downtrodden, the ones who have been waiting on line for centuries to get into history, who cannot read a book or afford to buy one.” This obsession was also inherited: Frank Espada, my father, was obsessed with justice as a community organizer, civil rights activist, and documentary photographer.I remember that one of the officers was wearing sunglasses in the rain. This “mad love,” as I call it in one of my poems about him, produced the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, and a book of photographs called And me.I took part in a spontaneous reading with Clemente Soto Vélez, a poet and former political prisoner with long white hair, who spent six years (from 1936 to 1942) incarcerated for advocating independence for Puerto Rico, convicted of “seditious conspiracy.” Clemente read from his book then inscribed it to me, in his crooked hand, as a “revolutionary poet.” He did not mean this in the sense of picking up the gun, but in the sense of passing the torch.I had called myself a poet before, but this simple, dignified ceremony grounded my identity as a writer in a history and a tradition—essential elements of any identity. For years, I conditioned myself to write in the midst of chaos.Her honors include an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, a Daniel Varoujan Award, and the Poetry International Prize. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University.

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