Sunday, June 17, 2018

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the 2017-2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and a USBBY 2019 Astrid Lindgren Award nominee. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award recipient. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and Arnold Adoff Poetry Award, among others. Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Her newest books are The Flying Girl, How Aída de Acosta learned to Soar, and Jazz Owls, a Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. Pending publication in September is a picture book titled A Dog Named Haku, A Holiday Story From Nepal, co-authored with Amish and Nicole Karanjit. Soaring Earth, a sequel to Enchanted Air, will be published by Atheneum in February, 2019.

Engle was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She studied agronomy and botany along with creative writing. She lives in central California with her husband and his wilderness search and rescue dogs.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Engle's reply:
This is an unusual moment for me, because I’m only reading a few books, instead of many. It’s also unusual because none of them are children’s books. I seem to have entered a summer of grownup books, even though I’m usually surrounded by piles of published and advanced review copies of works for young readers. I’m sure this strangely adult reading phase will pass soon, because I go to the library several times per week, and I visit every bookstore in town almost as often. (I’ve never ordered any book online. I prefer to support bookstores, especially the independent ones.)

There There by Tommy Orange

Wow! What a powerful and beautifully written novel about the urban Native American community in Oakland, California. I love the way chapters are in different voices, all so different and unique, yet united by heritage and a page-turning plot.

Neruda, the Poet’s Calling by Mark Eisner

I’m enjoying this thoughtful and comprehensive biography, but I’m a bit disappointed that poem excerpts are only in English, translations without including the original Spanish.

Fugues by Claribel Alegría

I’m re-reading this bilingual edition by one of El Salvador’s best-known poets because Central America is on my mind, with riots in Nicaragua, volcanic eruptions in Guatemala, and refugees from various countries being separated from their children at the U.S. border. I don’t know how reading helps, but somehow it does, simply by reminding me that the horrific stories we hear in the news happen to real people in real places.

The Dirt is Red Here, Art and Poetry From Native California, edited by Margaret Dubin

One of the privileges of my position as Young People’s Poet Laureate is recommending a children’s poetry book each month, on the Poetry Foundation website. I want to choose a book for Native American Heritage Month in November, but there are very few recent children’s books by Native American poets. I find this frustrating, because there are so many wonderful new adult poetry books by incredible Native poets. So I’m reading many adult ones, searching for a few that have poems accessible to children. The Dirt is Red Here is really beautiful, with photographs of art as well as poems by a wide variety of California poets from many Nations. I haven’t finalized my decision yet, but this just might be the one I’ll choose.
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue