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Floaters: Poems

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Martín Espada is a poet who "stirs in us an undeniable social consciousness," says Richard Blanco. Floaters offers exuberant odes and defiant elegies, songs of protest and songs of love from one of the essential voices in American poetry. Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross over. The title Martín Espada is a poet who "stirs in us an undeniable social consciousness," says Richard Blanco. Floaters offers exuberant odes and defiant elegies, songs of protest and songs of love from one of the essential voices in American poetry. Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross over. The title poem responds to the viral photograph of Óscar and Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Río Grande, and allegations posted in the "I’m 10-15" Border Patrol Facebook group that the photo was faked. Espada bears eloquent witness to confrontations with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and now sings the praises of Central American adolescents kicking soccer balls over a barbed wire fence in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry. He also knows that times of hate call for poems of love—even in the voice of a cantankerous Galápagos tortoise. The collection ranges from historical epic to achingly personal lyrics about growing up, the baseball that drops from the sky and smacks Espada in the eye as he contemplates a girl’s gently racist question. Whether celebrating the visionaries—the fallen dreamers, rebels and poets—or condemning the outrageous governmental neglect of his father’s Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane María, Espada invokes ferocious, incandescent spirits.


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Martín Espada is a poet who "stirs in us an undeniable social consciousness," says Richard Blanco. Floaters offers exuberant odes and defiant elegies, songs of protest and songs of love from one of the essential voices in American poetry. Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross over. The title Martín Espada is a poet who "stirs in us an undeniable social consciousness," says Richard Blanco. Floaters offers exuberant odes and defiant elegies, songs of protest and songs of love from one of the essential voices in American poetry. Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross over. The title poem responds to the viral photograph of Óscar and Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Río Grande, and allegations posted in the "I’m 10-15" Border Patrol Facebook group that the photo was faked. Espada bears eloquent witness to confrontations with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and now sings the praises of Central American adolescents kicking soccer balls over a barbed wire fence in an internment camp founded on that same bigotry. He also knows that times of hate call for poems of love—even in the voice of a cantankerous Galápagos tortoise. The collection ranges from historical epic to achingly personal lyrics about growing up, the baseball that drops from the sky and smacks Espada in the eye as he contemplates a girl’s gently racist question. Whether celebrating the visionaries—the fallen dreamers, rebels and poets—or condemning the outrageous governmental neglect of his father’s Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane María, Espada invokes ferocious, incandescent spirits.

51 review for Floaters: Poems

  1. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    There is a lot of rage and grief and truth in this slim volume of poems, language being used to make sense of tragedy and senseless prejudice and structural inequalities. It is raw and smart and searing and I am better for reading words like in the first two stanzas of the titular poems: "Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry, like the shard of a Styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river, like the plank of a fishing boat broken in half by the river, the dead fl There is a lot of rage and grief and truth in this slim volume of poems, language being used to make sense of tragedy and senseless prejudice and structural inequalities. It is raw and smart and searing and I am better for reading words like in the first two stanzas of the titular poems: "Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry, like the shard of a Styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river, like the plank of a fishing boat broken in half by the river, the dead float. And the dead have a name: floaters, say the men of the Border Patrol, keeping watch all night by the river, hearts pumping coffee as they say the word floaters, soft as a bubble, hard as a shoe as it nudges the body, to see if it breathes, to see if it moans, to see if it sits up and speaks. And the dead have names, a feast day parade of names, names that dress all in red, names that twirl skirts, names that blow whistles, names that shake rattles, names that sing in praise of the saints: Say Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez. Say Angie Valeria Martínez Ávalos. See how they rise off the tongue, the calling of bird to bird somewhere in the trees above our heads, trilling in the dark heart of the leaves." Some of my favorite poems were in the middle section, elegies and memorials for departed friends and mentors. I've not read Espada before, but I will be reading more. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Magaly C.

    E-Arc provided by NetGalley. Floaters is a poignant collection of poetry. The title is taken from the term for people who are found drowned having attempted to cross to enter the U.S. This is a moving collection of works dedicated to the immigrant and migrant workers' experiences, social injustice, scattered with Espada's personal narrative as well as works inspired by true events, "ripped from the headlines" like my favorite "Boxer wearing 'America 1st' trunks with wall pattern defeated by Mexi E-Arc provided by NetGalley. Floaters is a poignant collection of poetry. The title is taken from the term for people who are found drowned having attempted to cross to enter the U.S. This is a moving collection of works dedicated to the immigrant and migrant workers' experiences, social injustice, scattered with Espada's personal narrative as well as works inspired by true events, "ripped from the headlines" like my favorite "Boxer wearing 'America 1st' trunks with wall pattern defeated by Mexican boxer" Francisco Vargas. The imagery is vivid and moving (there may or may not have been tears shed during the poem "Floaters"...) evoking the spirits of the natural world such as with the poem "Love Son of the Galapagos Tortoise." The "Notes on the Poem" section added more valuable details to the poetry, which I appreciated. Wonderfully heart-wrenching and visceral work!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marian P

    Ruth Lilly Prize-winning poet Martin Espada draws on a deep well of experiences as a Puerto Rican activist, lawyer, and poet in this electrifying latest collection Floaters. The book runs the gamut from scathing socio-political commentaries on the state of cultural affairs, particularly during the Trump era, to the poignant homages to family, love, and poetic influence. These visceral poems, at turns both sardonic and breathtaking, reflect the author’s commitment to immigrants’ rights, social ju Ruth Lilly Prize-winning poet Martin Espada draws on a deep well of experiences as a Puerto Rican activist, lawyer, and poet in this electrifying latest collection Floaters. The book runs the gamut from scathing socio-political commentaries on the state of cultural affairs, particularly during the Trump era, to the poignant homages to family, love, and poetic influence. These visceral poems, at turns both sardonic and breathtaking, reflect the author’s commitment to immigrants’ rights, social justice, and Puerto Rico. The astonishing poems in the first section of the book offer caustic social commentaries on such racially charged events as the Charles and Mary Stuart case (“Jumping Off the Mystic Tobin Bridge”), the caging of immigrant children at the Texas-Mexico border (“Ode to the Soccer Ball Sailing Over a Barbed-Wire Fence”), and the drowning deaths of immigrant border crossers (“Floaters”). The eponymous poem, illuminating the death of two Salvadoran border crossers found washed ashore on the banks of the Rio Grande River, derives its title from Border Patrol agents who callously refer to drowned border crossers as “floaters.” Espada writes poignantly, “Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry, like the shard of a styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river. . . the dead float. And the dead have a name: floaters say the men of the Border Patrol.” Later sections explore themes of family and love. An origin poem (“The Story of How We Came to America”) and a wry poem (“Why I Wait for the Soggy Tarantula of Spinach”) recount Espada’s parents’ first date. Love is aptly expressed in “I Would Steal a Car for You.” This affecting collection lays bare the author’s vulnerability and in doing so restores our faith in humanity. It is a necessary, evocative read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Absolutely astounding. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Opening with the full rage and grief of modern America, Espada gives heartbreaking and powerful voice to immigrants and the children of immigrants in the modern age--capturing the details of individual stories while painting a picture of America as it exists today. From this opening, the collection turns toward more personal topics, speaking of love and loss, memory and art. Full of lingering lines and images drawn in sharp detail Absolutely astounding. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Opening with the full rage and grief of modern America, Espada gives heartbreaking and powerful voice to immigrants and the children of immigrants in the modern age--capturing the details of individual stories while painting a picture of America as it exists today. From this opening, the collection turns toward more personal topics, speaking of love and loss, memory and art. Full of lingering lines and images drawn in sharp detail, Espada's art shines through every page. The collection closes with poems dedicated to many who are now gone, speaking their names and paying tribute to their dreams, their lives, and the marks they left on the world. It is a journey from the social and the historical, through the individual connections of vibrant lives, and back again. Explosively political and deeply intimate, Floaters is a beautiful and powerful collection of poems that stretch across lives and history while also speaking directly to the time we live in today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Martín Espada's Floaters is a remarkable collection of prose poems, simultaneously dark and hopeful. Some of the floaters are bodies, friends he's lost. He unspools memory after memory, giving readers a sense of the person who was and the loss that remains. Again and again as I read, I found myself reading lines aloud to those around me, Espada's gift for choose the unexpected, but apt, description and his ability to create juxtapositions that illuminates corners we didn't know exited are stunni Martín Espada's Floaters is a remarkable collection of prose poems, simultaneously dark and hopeful. Some of the floaters are bodies, friends he's lost. He unspools memory after memory, giving readers a sense of the person who was and the loss that remains. Again and again as I read, I found myself reading lines aloud to those around me, Espada's gift for choose the unexpected, but apt, description and his ability to create juxtapositions that illuminates corners we didn't know exited are stunning.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Powerful and, for me, educational poems by an American poet of Puerto Rican descent. A point of view that I could never have. And so eloquent! Most of the poems looked like prose but read like poetry. Of course, as with any book of poems, there were some I liked better than others, some I didn’t quite understand, but Espada’s notes in the back of the book helped with that. Highly recommend!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m very glad I read it. This collection of poems pops from the first to the last. They read a lot like poetic essays. Some, of course, are stronger than others. Still. Excellent. Immigration, Puerto Rico, Brooklyn, violence, love - all are covered. This guy knows what he is doing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Gunther

    Martin Espada is brilliant. Enough said.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Guerrero

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eli

  11. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Campbell

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leanna

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angie Govantes

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Amico

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Gibbons

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  18. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  19. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Hendrixson

  20. 5 out of 5

    em

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Ray

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liz Baldwin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Parker

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mirko Stanivukovic

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ligia Perez

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aaron J. Clark

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fareeda

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Riley T

  31. 5 out of 5

    Leo

  32. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Waters

  33. 4 out of 5

    jada

  34. 5 out of 5

    Jameson Goetz

  35. 5 out of 5

    Erin D

  36. 4 out of 5

    Karen (idleutopia_reads)

  37. 5 out of 5

    Joumana

  38. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Adams

  39. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  40. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Collins

  41. 4 out of 5

    Page

  42. 4 out of 5

    Makenzie Nokes

  43. 4 out of 5

    Curt

  44. 4 out of 5

    Tera Slawson

  45. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  46. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  47. 5 out of 5

    May

  48. 4 out of 5

    Maite Molina

  49. 4 out of 5

    Chali

  50. 5 out of 5

    PS 8 Library

  51. 4 out of 5

    Nora

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