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City of Coughing and Dead Radiators.

Demetria Martinez, NCR staff writer, is a stationned in Tucson, Ariz.

Art and advocacy dovetail beautifully in Martin Espada's collection of poems, City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (W.W. Norton, $17.95 hardback). Espada's jobs have ranged from desk clerk in a transient hotel to tenant lawyer. Now an English teacher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, his ear remains finely tuned to the cries of the poor.

"I cannot evict them/from my insomniac nights. ... They bang the radiators/like cold hollow marimbas," he writes in the title poem. But he also celebrates the victories -- a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in San Antonio, or an immigrant learning the English words to chase her landlord out.

In "When Songs Become Water," he writes of the Salvadoran opposition paper, El Diario: "When the beat of the press/is like the pounding of tortillas/and the newsprint is medicine/on the fingertips."

This book is a balm for beleaguered activists and a tonic to get them energized for a new year.
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Author:Martinez, Demetria
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 19, 1993
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