“This is one tough, smart poet. The poems of Paul Martínez Pompa are gritty and visceral, but never cross the line into sensationalism. They are poems that vividly evoke the urban world, especially Chicago, without ever lapsing into urban cliché. They are poems that seek justice for the Latino community without ever resorting to the overheated language that all too often consigns poetry of social conscience to oblivion.
Martínez Pompa is a poet of the image, a poet of strong diction, a poet of meticulous craft. He puts that craft at the service of los olvidados, the forgotten ones: the usual suspects brutalized by police, factory workers poisoned by their environment, the victim of a homophobic beating in the boys’ bathroom. Yet this poet’s keen eye, sense of humor and gift for irony help these poems to rise above the wreckage of their circumstances. Nowhere else will you find a poem celebrating a Mexican grandmother’s phone call to the local Pizza Hut.
Martínez Pompa’s observation of a garbage truck may remind us of Williams and his poem about a fire engine; his compassion for the damned may bring Whitman or Hughes to mind. Paul Martínez Pompa, however, is very much his own man and his own poet, independent and honest. His is a unique voice, speaking the truth with clarity. Welcome.”
—Martín Espada, Judge
2008 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize