Posts Tagged ‘Margarita Engle’

I’ve been following Laura Shovan’s #WaterPoemProject. Margarita Engle, one of my favorite poets for children, prompted us to write an ode to a body of water. I write over and over about my bayou. Ha! I even call it my bayou. Living near water brings me joy and solace.

This ode comes directly from our experience of canoeing on the evening of Good Friday, without the annoying gnats.

Ode to the Bayou

Even as a water snake winds its way
around concrete rick-rack, haphazardly placed
for a bulkhead, I will wander

through your neighborhood of cypress trees
dodging knees, paddling a path of no destination.

Perhaps we’ll head toward the bridge,
stop to gather blackberries or chat
with neighbors about wood duck eggs
and such.

Even as you stretch out like a snake
for miles ahead, I will wander,
wishing for longer days,
photograph your evening haze,
and end my voyage with
this praise. 

© Margaret Simon, April 11, 2020

Bayou Teche sunset Good Friday, 2020

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Poetry Friday posts are all gathered by Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Last weekend at NCTE I had a conversation with Laura Shovan and Chris Barton about novels-in-verse. We discussed briefly how novels-in-verse should be poetry rather than prose written to look like poetry. 

On my long travel day to NCTE, I read Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse Soaring Earth. Margarita is a poet. Her novel reads like poems with the backdrop of her life experiences from late teen years to adulthood. In each verse, she was processing who she was and who she wanted to be. She rejects then embraces the culture of her life. She has to leave herself to find herself, and it’s all written in beautiful language of poetry. 

Margarita Engle, Soaring Earth

Currently I am reading White Rose by Kip Wilson. Once again, I put on the lens of a poet finding the elements of poetry as well as compelling story. Kip Wilson has successfully drawn me into the story of Sophie, a young adult resistor to Hitler’s Germany. The story takes me to the horrors of the early 40’s. I place myself into the shoes of a girl who knows it’s wrong to kill for any reason. She is keenly aware of what is happening in her country. She finds small joys, so we are not bombarded with terror. I am more than halfway through. I know what eventually happens, yet I keep reading. The lyrical rhythm of verse makes this incredible story a beautiful one.

February 20, 1943
A Golden Bridge

I have nothing
more to say,
Herr Mohr has nothing
more to ask,
and yet the next
time he summons
me, he throws
me a lifeline.

You can still save
yourself, Fraulein

A sliver of light enters
the room, and I’m certain
the entire world can hear
the pounding in my chest.

Tell me you were only
following your older

and I’ll recommend
setting you free.

My heart, beating
so confidently moments ago,
whimpers, withers, dies
but my voice gathers

Kip Wilson, White Rose

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Head over to Teach Mentor Texts with Jen Vincent to read more reviews from the Kidlitosphere.

I made a commitment to myself and ultimately to my students to read middle grade novels this summer. I want to channel Donalyn Miller and become a Wild reader. I am reading her second book Reading in the Wild. This is what she says about her own reading life.

I cannot imagine a day without reading in it. I am a better teacher because I read. I pass books into my students’ hands and talk with them about what they read. I model what a reading life looks like and show my students how reading enriches my life and can enrich theirs, too. –Donalyn Miller, Reading in the Wild

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle: I first met Margarita when she was featured on Caroline Starr Rose’s blog and had a bookmark giveaway. Shortly after, I received a sweet email from her asking the names of my students and sent us all a personally signed bookmark. I felt guilty, thought, because I had not read any of her books. Now I am remedying that. The Lightning Dreamer is a verse novel in the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, known as Tula. Interspersed are verses from her dedicated brother and cook, her disappointed and misguided mother, and the nuns who value her independent spirit. I am intrigued that a novel written in so few words can carry along a plot and work deeply on theme. The Lightning Dreamer was full of heart and soul. It is this heart and soul that makes you feel how Gertrudis felt and come to truly understand the oppression of women and the world of slavery in Cuba in the early 1800s.

Here is a recent interview with Margarita Engle on Author Turf.

Click image for Margarita Engle's website

Click image for Margarita Engle’s website

Renee LaTulippe of No Water River featured selections from the novel. No Water River continues to be a wealth of poetry goodness.

Link to Irene Latham's blog site: Live Your Poem

Link to Irene Latham’s blog site: Live Your Poem

The Sky Between Us by Irene Latham: Irene generously contacted me to trade poetry books. I was so honored that she would want to do this. She is another wonderful cyberfriend. The connections I have made through joining this kidlit blogging world are amazingly generous and supportive.

The Sky Between Us is a collection of poems that began as a manuscript for young readers inspired by the National Park Systems Historic Places collection. From there it grew into an adult collection of Irene’s perspective on her One Little Word for 2013, “sky.” This is a collection I will share with my middle grade students. The poems are written in short free verse stanzas often using enjambment to lead the reader through the words like a canoe on a winding river.

Irene has a gift for language that makes her words roll over your tongue and into your mind where you breathe out, “Ah!” Her observance of nature resonates with me and leads me to a deeper understanding of the world and creation. I will visit her poems again and again.


The sky between us
is stippled, layered,

anything but blue.
It storms memory

and sweeps clean–

it cannot rain

It swells, tatters,
its routing broken

by days or decades.
We steeple through,

eyes on whatever
happens next: awed

by every flash
and rumble,

monarch’s migration
to their gloryland

and by the swallows
that winter over.

We share the same moon,
we light each other’s

dream of morning.

–Irene Latham, all rights reserved.

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Discover. Play. Build.

This was my last week with my students for this school year. I always get reflective at this time of year, wondering if I’ve done enough for my students. So yesterday, our last day together, I asked them to write me a letter. I asked 1. What do you remember about our school year? 2. What was your favorite activity? and 3. What was your greatest lesson? For the most part, I was touched by their letters. I just want to share a few quotes and celebrate them.

This year we got to meet Caroline Starr Rose and Greg Pincus! We went to Mississippi! We saw a haunted house! But most of all, we bonded like a family. That was my favorite activity. My greatest lesson is that you don’t have to be famous, or super smart, or handsome, or even popular to be loved. Matthew

My greatest lesson I’ve learned from being here is to not be afraid to make mistakes as a writer and in life. Mistakes will help you to become a better person. No one is perfect and sometimes all of us forget that. Brooklyn

My students finished their poetry projects. They made altered books out of discarded books. They illustrated and glued in their own poems and some favorite poems by other authors. Vannisa put in a collection of some her favorites from the school year, a bookmark from Margarita Engle, A bookmark from Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, and “Keep Calm and Write Poetry.”

Vannisa's poetry book

Brooklyn's poetry book cover.  Gotta Love Poetry!

Brooklyn’s poetry book cover. Gotta Love Poetry!

Today, I am also celebrating magnolias. They are in full bloom, our state flower, and I went to a watercolor workshop this morning and painted one. I am posting a picture of a real one from my neighbor’s yard and the one I painted. Wish I could also post the scent.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

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