Don't forget to check out the links to other participants sharing poetry today.
Last week I found this book of poetry in a library I was working in. I had to bring it home because of the author and the illustrator. Seriously, who could resist this cover?
I've read it at least three times and pored over the illustrations. The book contains poems about eighteen important hispanic individuals who lived in what is now known as the United States of America. The earliest character, Juan De Miralles, was born in the early 1700's and one of the most recent, Baruj Benacerraf, died in 2011. Women and men are highlighted. Many of them are mixes of African and indigenous peoples. Their contributions are diverse. Some, but not all of them are famous. I knew of a few of these people, but most were new to me. The back matter contains short biographies of each of them.
The poetry is exquisite. I was already a Margarita Engle fan, but her work here is profound. If you don't know her wordsmithing, you are in for a treat. She manages to reveal much about each person with her straight forward deceptively simple free verse. The first person narrative has lines that will blow your mind.
Here are a few snippets from the poems:
Julia de Burgos 1914 - 1953
MY RIVER OF DREAMS
Six of my twelve brothers and sisters
died of hunger, but my gentle mother
took me for long walks
beside a river
of beautiful dreams.
I learned to love nature and the island,
even though we were so poor that I
had to climb into classrooms
through a window, because we
could not afford school tuition.
Juana Briones 1802 - 1889
ON MY OWN
This is a land of good herbs
and great sorrows -- the conquest
of los indios, my soldier-husband's
I survive as a rancher and healer,
curing the sick with medicinal plants,
and healing myself
Ever since I finished this collection, I've been thinking about my grandmother. Margarita Engle has inspired me to work on a poem about her and her life. Here is a rough draft of a beginning stanza.
I saw Buffalo Bill’s
Wild West Show.
I learned to shoot
and how Annie Oakley
came to be my hero.