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City of Coughing and Dead Radiators Paperback – September 17, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his fourth book, Espada ( Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover's Hands ) writes powerfully of the disenfranchised urban Latino poor: "I cannot evict them / from my insomniac nights." The poetry has a direct, proclamatory tone, at its best when summoning and sustaining intimacy. In "White Birch," for example, a birth is described: "The boy was snagged on that spiraling bone. / Medical fingers prodded your pink center / while you stared at a horizon of water / no one else could see, creatures leaping silver / with tails that slashed the air / like your agonized tongue." Brooklyn-born Espada draws on his tenants' rights work in Boston for strong images in several poems--"the girl surrounded by a pleading carousel / of children, in Spanish bewilderment, / sleepless and rat-vigilant, / who wins reluctant extermination / but loses the youngest, / lead paint retarded." Some poems cascade with strong visions and descend into squalor, horror, or the picaresque, yet forming wholes out of them can be problematic; they may grandstand at crucial points, or drift into pieties. On the other hand, "The Toolmaker Unemployed," an austere lyric supported by assonance and incremental ponderings, is as spare in its form as we imagine an old man's diminishing sense of worth to be.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In City of Coughing and Dead Radiators, his fourth book, Martín Espada defines political poetry for the turn of the century. . . . [This] is a book to be opened by those who know the consequences of poets speaking out, but also a book for a larger audience convinced that poetry is a source of survival.” (Ray Gonzalez - The Nation)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393312178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393312171
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,857,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on January 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I love romantic and majestic poems, which is why I hadn't anticipated liking this particular collection of poetry, for it deals with urban political themes. However, City of Coughing and Dead Radiators is a true masterpiece. Martin Espada has put together a collection of poems that deal with the harsh realities of being raised in the "ghetto," with an ironic twist. I love "Cockroaches of Liberation" -- truly one of the best pieces of poetry ever written. With unflinching honesty and elegant prose, Espada has created an ingenious piece of work. I am duly impressed with this book...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sesho on November 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
You know, most poets these days are content to write about the hitherings and ditherings of the tips of their noses. They don't see beyond themselves. They write in obscure heiroglyphics translatable only by the author. Martin Espada is a throwback to such poets as Percy Shelley, who believed that poets could instigate revolutions. Espada wants to have an effect on the outside world, not just ramble about wild imaginations.
Espada writes about the oppressed, whether they be the poor or students trying to revolt against their government, or the horrible living conditions in the cities of Central America or even the US. He believes that forces of freedom cannot be stamped out. In the very effective poem "Cockroaches of Liberation", he writes about a student strike in Puerto Rico. When the police come to break it up, swinging bats like "Roberto Clemente", the crowd dissolves "between the grillwork of balconies". After all the furor settles down, the students creep back out and begin "mutiplying like cockroaches of liberation."
Espada bases a lot of his poems on his life experience, especially as a housing lawyer who helped the poor find places to live. He writes about the bureaucratic hassles that refugees have to deal with and racism. Martin is basically railing against the ethnic and class issues of our century. I don't think he's a great enough poet to bring attention to the larger public, but he does do a nice balancing act between social protest and art. I've heard him compared to Neruda but Pablo wrote about other things besides politics. That was only one facet of his poems. He also wrote lyrics, love poems, odes to vegetables, and histories. It would be nice if Espada could also change his subject sometimes.
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Format: Paperback
Political poems about big city life is how this collection stacks up. Espada worked for a while as a legal aid attorney, and a number of these poems go back to those days of teaching tenants about their legal rights and so forth. There are also political poems about El Salvador and the firebombing of a newspaper. There are some humorous poems as well, which were welcome after the blatant politicking of the other poems. My favorite of these is called "Fidel in Ohio" and goes like this:

The bus driver tore my ticket
and gestured at the tabloid
spread across the steering wheel.
The headline:
FIDEL CASTRO DEAD
REPLACED BY IDENTICAL DOUBLE
Below, two photographs of Fidel,
one with cigar, one without.

"The resemblance is amazing,"
the driver said,
and I agreed.

I laughed out loud at the coffee house at this one. I wish there had been more pieces like this in the collection, but they are few and far between. I think Espada should do a book of humorous poems and sell a million copies, he has a good sense of humor when he cares to. But I suspect it's his political agenda which fuels him up, and so we'll see other political poems from him before we see more humor. Certainly his "Republic of Poetry" is another political collection.

Overall I enjoyed these poems, though many were more political than I like. It's always interesting to take a walk through another person's life and see what things are like for them. This collection is twenty years old, but most of the poems age well and are as perfectly clear today as they were when written. There are some good images in the poems, and Espada uses the language well to create poems with meaning and a sharp sensibility.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Siwsan G. on August 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This author is the voice of the disenfranchised. This book is among his best. I think it is iconic Espada.
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