Hiram Maristany, Hydrant: In the Air, 1963
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Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies—in partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)—is pleased to present, “Down These Mean Streets Poetry Reading,” featuring Martín Espada, Naomi Ayala, and Samuel Miranda. The event takes place this Friday, May 12 at 6:30 PM at the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium at SAAM in Washington, D.C. The reading coincides with the opening of, “Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in UrbanPhotography,” a SAAM exhibition that runs through August 6.
The poets will be responding to specific pieces in the exhibit, including pieces by the late Frank Espada, father of Martín Espada. Other photographers whose work has inspired some of the poems to be shared that evening include, Manuel Acevedo, Perla de Leon, Hiram Maristany, and Winston Vargas.
Frank Espada, Untitled, 1981
(Three boys, Sheldon Cafe, Hartford, Connecticut)
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This collaboration between Letras Latinas and the Smithsonian American Art Museum is an outgrowth of a previous one: “PINTURA:PALABRA, a project in ekphrasis.”
“A number of years ago, I approached and pitched to E. Carmen Ramos a project to be carried out in tandem with, Our America: the Latino Presence in American Art, the wonderful exhibition she put together at SAAM. Several months ago she reached out and asked if Letras Latinas would be interested in collaborating again, this time with the “Down These Mean Streets” exhibit. Letras Latinas is pleased to have curated the participation of Naomi Ayala and Samuel Miranda for this event,” said Francisco Aragón, Letras Latinas director. “As for Martín, we are pleased to be collaborating with him again: a number of years ago he served as the final judge for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize--one of two national book prizes that Letras Latinas oversees,” Aragón added.
For those who can’t get to the event in person, or those not in the Washington, D.C. area, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has arranged for a live webcast:
photo credit: David González
Martín Espada is an award-winning poet, essayist, and attorney who has dedicated much of his career to the pursuit of social justice and Latino rights. His critically acclaimed poetry celebrates—and laments—the immigrant and working class experience. Espada will read poems inspired by his father, Frank Espada, whose photographs are featured in Down These Mean Streets. Espada will be joined by DC-based poets Naomi Ayala and Samuel Miranda:
photo credit: E. Ethelbert Miller
Naomi Ayala is the author of three books of poetry—Wild Animals on the Moon (Curbstone Press), This Side of Early (Curbstone Imprint: Northwestern University Press), and Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations (Bilingual Review Press). She is also the translator of Luis Alberto Ambroggio’s book The Wind’s Archeology/La arqueología del viento, which won an International Latino Book Award for Best Nonfiction Book Translation. She lives in Washington, DC, where she teaches poetry and memoir to English-language learners at the Carlos Rosario School as founding teacher of the Write Who You Are Program.
photo credit: Thomas Sayers Ellis
Samuel Miranda grew up in the South Bronx and has made his home in Washington, DC. He is a visual artist, poet and teacher who uses his craft to highlight the value of everyday people and places. His work has been heavily influenced by Puerto Rican culture and family history, as well as his interactions with the people in his city, his students, and people he encounters in his travels. His poetry has been published in anthologies and journals and he has performed his work at venues such as the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and the Kennedy Center. His art has been exhibited throughout the DC metropolitan area.
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