Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of The Surrender Tree, recipient of the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino/a. Other novels in verse about the island include The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, The Firefly Letters, Tropical Secrets, The Wild Book, and most recently, The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. Engle has received two Pura Belpré Awards, two Pura Belpré Honors, three Américas Awards, and the Jane Addams Peace Award, among others. Books for younger children include Summer Birds, When You Wander, and Mountain Dog.

Engle lives in central California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for various wilderness search and rescue dog programs.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading.  Engle's reply:
I have always been a passionate and voracious reader, but my reading follows moods. I start every day with poetry, but when I read prose, I tend to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, grownup books, and children’s books. Right now, my reading mood is autobiography. [photo right-- Engle at antique book fair in Havana; click to enlarge]

My reading day is also divided into moods. Dawn is for poetry. Each day at sunrise, I’m currently re-reading a bilingual edition of Times Alone, Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly, who says of Machado, “His poetry secretes in itself the rhythm of the walker.” I’m a walker too, so I feel a deep kinship with Machado. His poems speak of attention to the invisible:

Tras el vivir y el sonar

está lo que más importa:


Beyond living and dreaming

there is something more important:

waking up

Machado’s verses also speak of compassion:

¿Dices que nada se crea?

No te importe, con el barro

de la tierra, haz una copa

para que beba tu hermano.

You say nothing is created new?

Don’t worry about it, with the mud

of the earth, make a cup

from which your brother can drink.

After reading poetry and walking the dogs with my husband, the rest of the morning and early afternoon belong to writing. Later in the day, I often read research materials about a particular time and place--usually Cuba. Eventually, it’s time to relax, swaying in a hammock when the weather allows.

I’ve ordered a lot of happy children’s books from the library and two local independent bookstores. When I need an emotional break, I re-read my favorite Psalm (52:8), which calls me a green olive tree in the house of God, and helps me feel like growth and a peaceful future are possible.
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

My Book, The Movie: Mountain Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue