Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist

Hannah enjoying poetry workshop

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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: A Poem from Margarita Engle's HURRICANE DANCERS

June 6, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, ponderings, verse novels

(Note: the book cover now is covered with many wonderful award stickers! Here's a former library copy, so you can see the art - ©Cathie Bleck...)

Happy Caribbean-American Heritage Month! (Click here for the Presidential proclamation.)

Today I have a poem from the amazing Margarita Engle, from her book, Hurricane Dancers , (Henry Holt, 2011). This novel in verse presents poems in five voices – our main character, Quebrado (the “broken one” – half native Cuban and half Spanish), survives a hurricane and shipwreck in the dawning of the 16th century to escape his life of slavery. The ship’s ruthless captain, Bernardino de Talavera (the first pirate in the Caribbean) survives, too, as does his cruel captive, former conquistador/governor of Venezuela, Alonso de Ojedo. Quebrado befriends Caucubú, daughter of a Ciboney chieftan, and the young fisherman she loves, Naridó.

Of course, these stories and fates become intertwined, and Quebrado must make decisions that affect them all and determine his own character. Around the middle of the book, he shares this poem:

Quebrado (p. 63, Hurricane Dancers)

Storms follow me
wherever I go.

Once again,
the sky looks so heavy
that I would not
be surprised
if black clouds
sank to earth
and grew roots
in moist soil,
creating a wispy forest
of drifting air.

Mysteries follow me
wherever I go.

©Margarita Engle. All rights reserved. (Many thanks to the author for permission to post.)

I borrowed the characters from this book on Wednesday for a kind of quirky, visual-art oriented writing exercise for my monthly column over at Janice Hardy’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY. Because I was so taken by the art and design of this book, I also sang its praises on my art blog this week with a link to more incredible art from cover artist Cathie Bleck.

I know all this just whets your appetite. Perhaps like me you’ve long been enchanted by Margarita’s award-winning picture book, Summer Birds , illustrated by the oh-so-gifted Julie Paschkis. Or perhaps you were captivated by The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor Book and winner of the Pura Belpré Award, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor, to name a few. The Poet Slave of Cuba has a long trail of awards as well, and then there are her dog books, her NPR segments, her haiku (ahhhh…!) – Well, have no fear. Margarita has agreed to return for an interview sometime soon, so stay tuned.

Today, turn your dial over to The Opposite of Indifference, where the multi-talented Tabatha has our Poetry Friday Roundup. But wait, there’s more: If you have some bicycle-themed poetry (or art) that you’d like to submit to an upcoming contest in Flagler County, Fla., follow today’s tropical breezes to my post with information from my friend and Highlights Founders Workshops poetry alum, Stephanie Salkin. (& Thanks, Stephanie!)


  1. June 7, 2013 3:16 AM EDT
    Wow, what gorgeous imagery - a black cloud forest. Shiver. I just received Margarita's new rescue dog book WHEN YOU WANDER - sweet! - and can't wait to delve into her verse novels. She'll be on NWR next week! As indicated by your list of her varied works, it's nearly impossible to narrow down the interview questions. Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem, Robyn. :)
    - Renee LaTulippe (@ReneeMLaTulippe)
  2. June 7, 2013 4:04 AM EDT
    Very impressed by Margarita's work! Thanks for sharing all your posts about her, Robyn-- I look forward to visiting them.
    - Tabatha
  3. June 7, 2013 8:14 AM EDT
    I hope I can find a copy of this newest book. Engle's work is really wonderful to read, Robyn. I didn't know about the dog books too, so thank you!
    - Linda Baie
  4. June 7, 2013 8:47 AM EDT
    Renee - howdy! And - YAY! I can't wait to see your feature with Margarita. Yep, there's enough of her wonderful work to go around, for sure. So glad she'll be part of the NWR archives.

    Hi, Tabatha! Thank you, and thanks for hosting today.

    Linda, thanks for coming over. This one is a 2011 title, so you should be able to find it. Her latest novel (unless another one has slipped in)is The Lightning Dreamer,about a 19th Century Cuban abolitionist. (On my TBR list!)
    - Robyn Black
  5. June 7, 2013 9:15 AM EDT
    Others have commented on the powerful imagery in this poem, Robyn, and I second that. Just lovely.
    - Tara
  6. June 7, 2013 9:19 AM EDT
    Oh my gosh! First, I guess I haven't visited since your "makeover" and it looks swell! And second, I wasn't familiar with this poet's work, so thanks! Love that poem--love that cover! And I wish I had a bicycle poem (The only wheels I had for a very long time were on a bike!)
    - Cathy C. Hall
  7. June 7, 2013 9:20 AM EDT
    Storms and mystery... so much beauty in a life. Thanks for sharing, Robyn.
    - Irene Latham
  8. June 7, 2013 9:22 AM EDT
    It must be weather week on Poetry Friday-- this post, followed by Amy's... I guess I missed the memo. Love this poem's incredible imagery, especially "...I would not be surprised if black clouds sank to earth and grew roots
    in moist soil..." Can't wait to see/hear more from her!
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  9. June 7, 2013 10:24 AM EDT
    Hi, Tara - I agree. And I feel the poem works so well where it is placed in the story, connecting the different kinds of "storms" encountered by Quebrado.

    Cathy - thanks! Hey, I was the same way. Never had a car til I inherited one with marriage. ;0)

    Irene, very evocative, isn't it? Thanks for coming by.

    Hi, Michelle - I visited Amy's post in the wee hours and thought so, too - weather all around! (I heard from Margarita and saw on the news they're having a heat wave in California, and I found out on Facebook that my brother and his partner got such a lashing from TS Andrea yesterday that things fell off their mantel! :0!) All okay there now.
    - Robyn Black
  10. June 7, 2013 10:45 AM EDT
    The blog is lookin' awesome and what a great poem!
    - Elizabeth D
  11. June 7, 2013 12:20 PM EDT
    Many thanks, e! Glad you like the poem - it's an awesome book.
    - Robyn Black
  12. June 7, 2013 12:26 PM EDT
    Thank you so much for sharing this, Robyn! I was just talking to our local librarian about this book - but I couldn't recall the title or author, and now I just feel stupid! I can't believe my mind just went blank! I'll have to let her know now...she wants to purchase more novels-in-verse, so I told her this would be a good one.
    - Matt Forrest
  13. June 7, 2013 1:26 PM EDT
    Terrific! Thanks for sharing, Matt. I think they should have ALL of Margarita's verse novels. ;0)
    - Robyn Black
  14. June 7, 2013 1:28 PM EDT
    Margarita is amazing. I can see why you were captivated by this compelling novel. Can't wait for your interview :).
    - jama
  15. June 7, 2013 1:43 PM EDT
    Hi, Jama! I agree. :0) Thanks for popping over.
    - Robyn Black
  16. June 7, 2013 3:21 PM EDT
    Putting this on my TBR list. What a powerful poem.
    - jone
  17. June 7, 2013 3:28 PM EDT
    I've got lots of novels in verse on my TBR pile/list for this summer. Adding another!
    - Mary Lee Hahn
  18. June 7, 2013 4:21 PM EDT
    Jone, you'll enjoy it! :0)

    Hi, Mary Lee. Your stack must look a lot like my stack. Thanks for coming over!
    - Robyn Black
  19. June 7, 2013 7:05 PM EDT
    What a beautiful poem and book. Thank you for sharing and I am adding it to my "to buy" list!
    - Iza Trapani
  20. June 8, 2013 7:17 AM EDT
    Engle's imagery is so evokative, I can see those clouds sinking into the earth. I've only read The Firefly Letters, which was amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this today.
    - Catherine @readingtothecore
  21. June 8, 2013 9:07 AM EDT
    Iza, I think you'll enjoy the story AND the beautiful cover art!

    Hi, Catherine - thank you for visiting. The Firefly Letters is on MY list. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  22. June 8, 2013 10:54 AM EDT
    I've been looking for a good novel in verse. This sounds amazing, thanks!
    - Catherine Johnson
  23. June 8, 2013 12:43 PM EDT
    This looks like a must read for me. What beautiful imagery!
    - Doraine Bennett
  24. June 8, 2013 1:42 PM EDT
    Hi, Catherine! I think novels in verse are the perfect summer reading. :0)

    Doraine, thanks for dropping by. If you track this one down, enjoy!
    - Robyn Black
  25. June 8, 2013 8:58 PM EDT
    Robyn, thanks for introducing me to Magarita Engle's work. How could I have missed her? I swung over to your post on The Other Side of the Story. Now I'm wondering how I can benefit from your shape/writing exercise. So much to learn. Thanks for sharing.
    - Joyce Ray
  26. June 8, 2013 11:12 PM EDT
    Hi, Joyce! So great to see you. And I'm thrilled to help make such a connection - some fine writing for another fine writer. :0)
    - Robyn Black

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A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
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