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Artists as activists: How will you wield your power?

Writers often write to shed light on a difficult subject, find justice, and make a difference. Some writers say it’s our duty to seek truth, speak out, and stand up for those who can’t. It’s the reason why writers are among the first to be persecuted during times of political unrest.

Poet Martin Espada, who worked as a tenant lawyer and is now a professor at Amherst College, in Amherst, Mass., says he feels it’s his duty as a poet to make the invisible visible. He calls himself a poet spy, taking notes on what will later become poems.

Espada writes about controversial issues and fights for human rights through his poetry. He writes about immigration reform, dictators, prisoners on Death Row, poverty, and 9/11 victims.

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Espada said, “There’s something about poetry that saves me. There’s something about poetry that energizes me, that brings me to another plane. That fires all the hormones, I don’t know what. Something intangible, and yet tangible at the same time. There is something to poetry and activism which has the same energizing effect.”

What will you do to wield your talent as an artist, a citizen of the world, and as a communicator, whether you’re a writer, painter, photographer, or someone who has a vision for something better?

Espada has won numerous awards, including the American Book Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. His most recent book is The Trouble Ball. For more information about Espada and his writing, visit his website.

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