Read a poem, talk about it, read it again.

Episode 146 National Book Award Winner Martín Espada and Floaters - SPECIAL EPISODE


In this special episode, Connor and Jack discuss the 2021 National Book Awards - the long list, the finalists, and the winner "Floaters: Poems" by Martín Espada. They dig into an excerpt from the title poem "Floaters" and discuss how it brings urgent attention to issues of immigration and uses narrative to fight against the dehumanizing language often used to describe those seeking a better life in the United States.

Listen to the National Book Awards Finalist Reading, here.

Learn more about Espada, here.

Get a copy of "Floaters: Poems" here.

Read all of "Floaters" here.

Excerpt from Floaters
By: Martín Espada
  • "Ok, I’m gonna go ahead and ask ... have ya’ll ever seen floaters this clean. I’m not trying to be an a$$ but I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS, could this be another edited photo. We’ve all seen the dems and liberal parties do some pretty sick things." —Anonymous post, “I’m 10-15” Border Patrol Facebook group*
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.

Say what we know of them now they are dead: Óscar slapped dough
for pizza with oven-blistered fingers. Daughter Valeria sang, banging
a toy guitar. He slipped free of the apron he wore in the blast of the oven,
sold the motorcycle he would kick till it sputtered to life, counted off
pesos for the journey across the river, and the last of his twenty-five
years, and the last of her twenty-three months. There is another name
that beats its wings in the heart of the trees: Say Tania Vanessa Ávalos,
Óscar’s wife and Valeria’s mother, the witness stumbling along the river.
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