X-Post: Seven Years Later, Impact of 9/11 Still Resonates

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer takes a look back at the impact of 9/11 with a diverse panel that includes Martín Espada. Martín’s comments on how 9/11 has impacted language and politics are spot on but my favorite quote is when he is asked what the U.S. government should do with its enemies, “I also think we need to sit down and start talking to those enemies.”

Seven Years Later, Impact of 9/11 Still Resonates

Seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a panel of writers and scholars examines the event’s continuing impact on American life and on the world.

JIM LEHRER: And now we explore the impact of 9/11 on American life with Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, John Ridley, author, award-winning director and screenwriter, Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for Townhall.com; and Martin Espada, poet, professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

And, Martin Espada, to you first.

How do you read the impact 9/11 has had on Americans?

MARTIN ESPADA, Poet: Well, as a poet, I would have to say that 9/11 has changed the language.

First of all, there’s the phrase 9/11 itself. It’s a big abstraction. And we who remember what happened that day have to do whatever we can to make that big abstraction as concrete as possible, so that we truly remember those who were murdered that day, so this does not turn into a memorial by rote, like so many others. And, this way, the dead can truly be honored.

There is another way, however, in which I think 9/11 changed the language. In the name of 9/11, in the name of the war on terror, phrases like weapons of mass destruction and enhanced interrogation have entered our political vocabulary.

These phrases, for me, divorce language from meaning. And, thus, they divorce action from consequence. If you are engaged in enhanced interrogation, you are not engaged in torture. And, thus, we as a society come to embrace torture in the name of security.

I think we have to do whatever we can to combat this tendency in the language. The fact is that this language is used to foster a culture of fear, so that people will, in turn, act against their own interests. And that’s why we’re now embroiled in two wars without end.

Full Transcript

X-Post: Martín Espada interview

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, interviews Martín Espada.

Writing a poem, particularly a political poem, is ultimately an act of faith. You write the poem, you put it in the air, it becomes part of the environment, part of what we breath in collectively, and you hope then that it makes some difference to somebody.

A professor of mine at the University of Wisconsin, Herbert Hill, used to say, “Ideas have consequences. Ideas have consequences.” And I really believe that, especially with poetry.

– Martín Espada

Practical Poesia

martín in action
Originally uploaded by geminipoet

Even the most political poem is an act of faith. Because you have no way of quantifying its impact on the world. But the fact is we write these poems and put them into the environment, into the atmosphere and we have no idea where they’re going to land. We have no idea who’s going to breathe them in. We have no idea what affect it’s gonna have on an individual life unless that person materializes and says, “Poetry saved my life.”
-Martín Espada

Bill Moyer’s interview with Martin Espada is up and running. Mad props to Mr. Moyers for shining such a spotlight on poetry: how it develops from the master poet, to the teaching poet, to the student poet and its effect on audience.

While Espada’s work and words are the high definition of inspiration, I also want to talk about young poeta Haydil Henriquez and her desire to make poetry such a part of her life. A life that is driven by a practical family brought to this country for practical reasons, envisioning a practical life for their daughter and in the eyes of this family poetry is not a practical thing.

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of writers who come from an immigrant background and few have ever been encouraged to pursue the art of writing as a practical part of their life. Yes, they have been told that poetry is a fine hobby and that the novel they are chipping away at is a fine use of spare time but unless it equals real dollars & cents then it’s equal in value to a good night out drinkin or a quick pick up game of basketball.

I’d be very interested to read Haydil’s poem ‘In Papi’s Shoes’ because I imagine it to be her strategy to not only get her voice in the world but to also demonstrate to her family the practical use of poetry: as a means to acknowledge the sacrifice of the previous generation and let them know this generation will not squander what they have worked so hard for.

Also good to see Rich, Aracelis and the Bruckner Bar & Grill on the Moyers Journal! (For more on Acentos, check out Rich’s interview at labloga.)

Full transcript of Martín Espada on Bill Moyers Journal
Video of Martín Espada on Bill Moyers Journal
Video of Martín introducing Aracelis Girmay at Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase
Poems from Martín Espada
Poems from Aracelis Girmay

Martín Espada on PBS

The Republic of Poetry
Originally uploaded by geminipoet

Martín Espada, will be interviewed on PBS’ Bill Moyers Journal this Friday, July, 13th. In this revealing interview, Espada talks with Moyers about the inspirations and foundations of his poetry, and the significance of poetry to the world today.

More info (and props for the news) over at labloga.blogspot.com