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Acclaimed poets reading July 12 to benefit scholarship in USM’s Stonecoast MFA program

Martín Espada portrait

Martín Espada, the recent winner of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, will join fellow poet Lauren Marie Schmidt for a public reading to benefit the Writing for Social Justice Scholarship in the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program.

The event, “Poetic Voices for Social Justice: A Benefit Reading,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 12 at the SPACE Gallery at 538 Congress St. in Portland. Attendees will be asked to make a suggested donation of $10.

Espada’s work spans nearly four decades and more than a dozen poetry collections. He has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, an American Book Award winner and a National Book Critics Circle nominee.

Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a law degree from Northeastern University. As an attorney, he served as supervisor of Su Clínica Legal, a legal services program for low-income, Spanish-speaking tenants in Chelsea, Massachusetts, outside Boston. As a poet, an essayist, an editor, and a translator, he has dedicated himself to the pursuit of social justice, fighting for the rights of Latino/a communities and reclaiming the historical record from oblivion. His greatest influence is his father, Frank Espada, a community organizer, civil rights activist, and documentary photographer who created the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project.

Lauren Schmidt is the author of three collections of poetry including “Psalms of The Dining Room,” a sequence of poems about her volunteer experience at a soup kitchen in Eugene, Oregon. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize, the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, The Janet B. McCabe Prize for Poetry, and the Bellevue Literary Review’s Vilcek Prize for Poetry.

The reading will benefit the Stonecoast MFA Writing for Social Justice Scholarship, established to reduce financial and social barriers to higher education while supporting culturally and socially engaged writers committed to creating positive change in the community.

“Stonecoast knows that writers voices are one of the essential forces shaping our world; our Social Justice Scholarship will ensure that economically disadvantaged students have a space to create important work,” said Justin Tussing, Stonecoast’s directo