Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Margarita Engle - Chocho Seeds

            Chocho Seeds
An Autobiographical Fairy Tale
                   by
           Margarita Engle

We gathered small red and black seeds,
stringing them into necklaces
of danger. They were poisonous,
but they looked like magical beads.
They made us dream of gallant deeds

by armored knights on massive steeds
in a world of evil spells and greed.
We dreamed that sisters, two of us,
could be magical princesses
in books that we would someday read.

© Margarita Engle. All rights reserved.

Can we talk about this poem by Margarita Engle for a minute here? When I first read it, I loved the sound of it, the feel of it, and the story within. Then I noticed a little note above the poem itself - poetic form: Cuban décima mirror. Now, I know some of you reading here will know the décima - a 10 line form created in Spain and found throughout Latin America with local variations - though I didn't recognize it myself. In Chocho Seeds, each of the 10 lines has eight syllables, a pattern that I am guessing is the Cuban form (plus lets me say "octosyllabic!" for the first time ever here). The "mirror" comes into play with the rhyme scheme mirrored stanza to stanza. That's a lot of form packed into a small poem, yet what amazes me is that none of that was apparent to me when I read it - a testament to the poet's craft and the power of the words themselves.


This is no surprise, though, if you've read any of Margarita Engle's novels or individual poems, for that matter. Her books always end up on year-end and award lists (from a Newbery Honor to Pura Belpré Awards and honors to a Sydney Taylor Award and much more), yet it's the sheer pleasure of reading... of being transported to Cuba and discovering new stories there... of devouring details and enjoying words that truly tell the tale. I can't wait to pick up The Wild Book, her newest novel (which she discusses in this interview), and I'm totally thrilled to have Margarita Engle here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had Riddle me, Riddle me from Helen Frost. Tomorrow... My Pencil by Robert Weinstock! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

4 comments:

tanita davis said...

Whoa. That is indeed a lot of form, none of which is obvious. I knew there was some form at work, but I was more interested in the act of hanging poisonous seeds around one's neck: a talisman, a threat, a warning? - I loved the idea of them finding a place for themselves in story, too. Lovely all 'round.

Liz said...

Ah, now I did see the rhyme scheme, but that's because I'm obsessive! What a lovely poem, and it has such a lot else besides an interesting form - all the colour and a little window into a childhood very different from mine - although we shared the same dreams. And I had a library of books. Wonderful.

Kristina said...

I love your 30 poets series for the poetry that comes every day, but also for the authors I meet through you. Every year I purchase books for my classroom after discovering the author's work on your website. Today I'm going to the library to get a stack of Margarita Engle's books. Thanks for the gift of your blog!

Charles Waters said...

I love learning forms I've never heard of before and this one packs a lot punch. ENGLE POWER!!!!!!