This is an anthology of poems in the Age of Trump—and much more than Trump. These are poems that either embody or express a sense of empathy or outrage, both prior to and following his election, since it is empathy the president lacks and outrage he provokes.
There is an extraordinary diversity of voices here. The ninety-three poets featured include Elizabeth Alexander, Julia Alvarez, Richard Blanco, Carolyn Forché, Aracelis Girmay, Donald Hall, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Danez Smith, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Ocean Vuong, Bruce Weigl, and Eleanor Wilner. They speak of persecuted and scapegoated immigrants. They bear witness to violence: police brutality against African Americans, mass shootings in a school or synagogue, the rage inflicted on women everywhere. They testify to poverty: the waitress surviving on leftovers at the restaurant, the battles of a teacher in a shelter for homeless mothers, the emergency-room doctor listening to the heartbeats of his patients. There are voices of labor, in the factory and the fields. There are prophetic voices, imploring us to imagine the world we will leave behind in ruins lest we speak and act.
However, this is not merely a collection of grievances. The poets build bridges. One poet steps up to translate in Arabic at the airport; another walks through the city and sees her immigrant past in the immigrant present; another declaims a musical manifesto after the hurricane that devastated his island; another evokes a demonstration in the street, shouting in an ecstasy of defiance. The poets take back the language, resisting the demagogic corruption of words themselves. They assert our common humanity in the face of dehumanization.
"Far more than a protest anthology, Martin Espada’s What Saves Us brings together portraits of Trump’s enablers with the myriad voices of the lost, abandoned, and marginalized. These stories of immigrants, minimum wage workers, alcoholics, victims, broken angels, and dreamers redeem their lives and install their voices in our hearts."
—Cary Nelson, author of Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the Poetry of the American Left
"Poet Martín Espada has put together a potent, moving anthology of poetry . . ." —Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe
"In the poem by Bruce Weigl that gives the collection its title, 'What Saves Us,' he writes that 'We are not always right about what we think will save us.' But the heart of this anthology is that it is clearly telling us what will not save us: our silence. Jane Hirshfield asks in her poem, 'Let Them Not Say,' that difficult question that has been heard more and more in the past four years and will be asked by generations that come after us: When it was happening, what did you do about it?" —Kenneth Ronkowitz, Paterson Literary Review
"Direct, colloquial and unironic, these poems speak from and for the communities that reflect the unstoppable diversification of US society, by asserting a common humanity in the face of dehumanization." —Andy Croft, Morning Star