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1. Ready to Celebrate Poetry Month with The Dreamer?

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to share The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan with you for National Poetry Month. The Dreamer is an invitation into the imaginative world of Pablo Neruda. Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets !! The Dreamer has allowed me to share my love of this poet with my children as we wander through his world and life in Chile.


It is a tale of day-dreaming, gathering those little items which catch our eye, while guarding and savoring them into a collection of our childhood. Pam Munoz Ryan does an incredible job of weaving facts into an incredible story of magic, nostalgia, and intrigue. Pablo Neruda’s real name was Neftali Reyes. He had a very stern and unbearable father. Protecting him were his step-mother, uncle, and sister. Along with everyday situations in his household and school, we are invited on wandering journeys to the rainforest where Neftali’s imagination is taken away by all of the fauna, insects, and animals which live in the forest.



Another trip takes us to the ocean where Neftali meets a librarian who gives him his hide-out for the summer. This turns into a spectacular adventure with his sister of trying to save a swan. Later Neftali learns of the movement to kick indigenous people out of their homeland from his uncle. As he grows, he takes up the cause to protect them. Making sure that he doesn’t seek the wrath of his father, he uses a pseudonym. His new last name Neruda was derived from a poet from Czechoslovakia.

One of the elements that makes this book such a treasure to read and hold are the simple but powerful illustrations of Peter Sis. His contributions to this magical story gives us a look into the world of a poet through the heart and eyes.

The Dreamer 1

Equally as interesting is Pam Munoz Ryan’s telling of what inspired her to write this story. Also in the back are several beautifully selected poems of Pablo Neruda’s. This book is a poetic magical tale that is sure to inspire all of us to look at those simple things around us with the eye of a poet. Life is for living and experiencing and this book is an invitation to do just this.

Something To Do

A Word Box

In the story The Dreamer, Neftali Reyes loves to collect things. One of his most beloved collections are his words. Writing them on a piece of paper, folding it gently , and then placing it in his drawer; Neftali can return anytime he wants to and remember the words that caught his imagination. Let’s remember our friend Neftali by making a word box.

word box


  • One unfinished wood or paper mache box found in a craft store.
  • Scrapbooking word stickers
  • Mod Podge matt finish
  • Brush
  • Paper


  1. Taking your wooden box and the word stickers, put words all over your box in a design of your choosing.
  2. Once you’ve finished sticking your words on the box, brush Mod Podge all over the words and let it dry.
  3. You can use any kind of paper. We like to use paper with pretty colors on one side but white paper works just fine. Cut little pieces of paper that fit into your box. Start writing your favorite words down and saving them in your word box.

Beautiful Spanish Words

The Dreamer uses a beautiful mix of English and Spanish. I liked the way the Spanish was woven throughout the story without it being distracting. Each Spanish word followed with it’s English meaning. By using the Spanish language in this way, it brought the essence of Chile into the story.

Here’s a Spanish lexicon from The Dreamer. Be sure to write these words on colorful cards and put them into your word box.

  • Adios:: Good-bye
  • el viento:: the wind
  • Porfa :: Please
  • buena suerte:: good luck
  • mapuche:: indigenous people in Aranucania
  • Bravo:: Good Job
  • la empanadas y el bistec:: Potato turnovers and steak
  • Aqui Estoy:: I am here.
  • El pan amasado:: Home made bread
  • futbol:: soccer
  • Amigo:: friend
  • un escondite:: a hideout
  • una chismosa:: a tattletale
  • Amor:: Love

Poetry Explorations

In The Dreamer author Pam Munoz Ryan poses many questions to get us thinking in words. Let’s look at those questions and write a short poem about the Wind. Remember when Neftali’s hat and gloves gotten blown away by the wind. What do these questions inspire in you ?

  1. What does the wind give ?
  2. What does the wind take away?
  3. Where is the storehouse of lost and found ?

Let’s experience Time through words. By answering the following questions you can experience time in a new way. Write a little poem about time.

  1. What is the color of a minute? A month ? A Year ?

Reader’s Theater

A great way to instill active reading in our young readers is to practice in a Reader’s Theater setting. Set for four voices, author Pam Munoz Ryan has created this Reader’s Theater edition to her book The Dreamer.

I’d like to know…..

Have you read this book? If so, share your thoughts and comments below!


Homeschooling can be complicated and frustrating, especially if you are overloaded with information. The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out alone. Donna Ashton’s The Waldorf Home School Handbook is a simple and step-by-step guide to creating and understanding a Waldorf-inspired homeschool plan. Within the pages of this all-in-one homeschooling guide parents will find information, samples of lesson plans and curriculum, helpful hints and the secrets behind the three Areas for Optimum Learning. Join Donna as she guides you through the Waldorf method and reveals how to educate your children in a nurturing and creative environment. Visit the Waldorf Homeschool Handbook info page HERE.

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook

The post Ready to Celebrate Poetry Month with The Dreamer? appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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2. Carolyn Kizer Has Died

Carolyn KizerPoet Carolyn Kizer has died. She was 89-years-old.

Kizer (pictured, via) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for her collection, Yin. Throughout her writing career, she published several volumes of poetry. Follow this link to read a few of Kizer’s poems.

Here’s more from The Los Angeles Times: “At 17 she published a poem in the New Yorker (her only poem to appear in that publication, as it turned out)…Throughout her career, she stood up for what she believed, persuading Lyndon Johnson to lift a travel ban against Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1970, and, 28 years later, resigning (along with her friend Maxine Kumin) as a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets to protest the organization’s lack of diversity.”

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3. Five Family Favorites with Author Maria T. Lennon

Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper.

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4. Look What the Easter Bunny Dragged: Pedacitos of Literary Greats

Olga Garcia Echeverria

I don't have much to say about Easter. Like Thanksgiving and Santa Claus Day, it's a holiday that makes me feel awkward and rebellious. Pastel colors and Catholic mass make me nauseous. I've never been into wicker. I hate fake grass. I confess I have in my lifetime eaten my good share of chocolate bunnies and yellow marshmallow chicks, but nowadays I mostly feel resurrected by the literary word. Here are a few treats to sink your teeth into on this Easter Sunday. Enjoy!
Marquez On Writing from Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin 
(Alfred A. Knopf 2009).
GGM on his 1st Birthday
     I am a writer through timidity. My true vocation is that of magician, but I get so flustered trying to do tricks that I’ve had to take refuge in the solitude of literature. Both activities, in any case, lead to the only thing that has interested me since I was a child: that my friends should love me more.
     In my case, being a writer is an exceptional achievement because I am very bad at writing. I have had to subject myself to an atrocious discipline in order to finish half a page after eight hours of work; I fight physically with every word and it is almost always the word that wins, but I am so stubborn that I have managed to publish four books in twenty years. The fifth, which I am writing now, is going slower than the others, because between my debtors and my headaches I have very little free time.
     I never talk about literature because I don’t know what it is and besides I’m convinced the world would be just the same without it. On the other hand, I’m convinced it would be completely different without the police. I therefore think I’d have been much more useful to humanity if instead of being a writer I’d been a terrorist.
David Sedaris: An Easter Excerpt
One of the funniest stories I have ever read is "Jesus Shaves" by David Sedaris. His entire collection Me Talk Pretty One Day (Little, Brown and Company 2000) is hilarious and highly recommended. In "Jesus Shaves," Sedaris describes his experience as an adult second language learner in a French class in Paris, France. In their limited French, Sedaris and fellow students attempt to explain the meaning of Easter to a Moroccan Muslim classmate.  
    The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the teacher’s latest question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?”
     It would seem that despite having grown up in a Muslim country, she would have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. “I mean it,” she said. “I have no idea what you people are talking about.”
     The teacher called upon the rest of us to explain.
     The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is," said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and …oh, shit.” She faltered and her fellow country-man came to her aid.
     “He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two…morsels of …lumber.”
     The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
     “He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”
     “He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”
     “He nice, the Jesus.”
     “He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody make him dead today.”
     Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as “to give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
     “Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One too many eat of the chocolate.”
     “And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.
     I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, “The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”
     “A rabbit?” The teacher, assuming I’d used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wriggling them as though they were ears. “You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?”
     “Well, sure, “ I said. “He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have a basket and foods. “
     The teacher sighed and shook her head. As far as she was concerned, I had just explained everything that was wrong with my country. “No, no, “ she said. “Here in France the chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.” 
     I called for a time-out. “But how do the bell know where you live?”
    “Well,” she said, “how does a rabbit?”
     It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That’s a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth-and they can’t even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character. He’s someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there’s no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog-and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up. 
     Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate; equally confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder.

Adios Querida Doris Pilkington Garimara author of Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence

Doris Pilkington Garimara and her mother Molly

It's midnight, Easter Sunday, and I've just heard that author Doris Pilkington Garimara passed away last week of ovarian cancer. Among the many books she wrote, Pilkington Garimara documented her Australian aborigine mother's escape from a government camp and her amazing 1,500-mile trek home. Her book, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, brought to light the systematic racist policies to forcibly assimilate Australian natives by tearing them away from their families. Her book was later made into the highly acclaimed film, Rabbit Proof Fence. Like all great literature and art, Rabbit Proof Fence is a story that touches the heart in powerful and timeless ways. Through the years, I have returned to it numerous times--for its bravery, its mastery, and its poetic resilient spirit.
Last but not least, and in honor of our recently departed Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Doris Pilkington Garimara, I leave you with a few lines from one of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems. What is there not to love about Neruda?
This excerpt is from "Ode to a Few Yellow Flowers," which is translated by Ilan Stavans in All The Odes: Pablo Neruda.   
Polvo somos, seremos.
Ni aire, ni fuego, ni agua
solo tierra
y tal vez
unas flores amarillas.
We are dust, we shall become.
Not air, or fire, or water
we shall be
mere earth
and maybe
a few yellow flowers.


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5. Madonna Reads Pablo Neruda

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we found a video featuring pop star Madonna and her reading of the poem “If You Forget Me.” Pablo Neruda originally wrote this poem in Spanish and called it “Si Tu Me Olvidas.”

Madonna’s reading is featured on The Postman (Il Postino) movie soundtrack. It also contains poetry recitations delivered by Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, UK musician Sting, and The Avengers actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Neruda, a celebrated Chilean writer, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. You can read more pieces written by Neruda at The Poetry Foundation’s website. What’s your favorite Pablo Neruda poem?

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6. Poetry Friday: XXXIV

I love Neruda, but haven't read all of his stuff. I was happy to come across this one a few weeks ago on a friend's food blog. You can find it in 100 Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor (English and Spanish Edition).

(You are the daughter of the sea)
by Pablo Neruda

You are the daughter of the sea, oregano’s first cousin.
Swimmer, your body is pure as the water;
cook, your blood is quick as the soil.
Everything you do is full of flowers, rich with the earth.

Your eyes go out toward the water, and the waves rise; your hands go out to the earth and the seeds swell; you know the deep essence of water and the earth, conjoined in you like a formula for clay.

Naiad: cut your body into turquoise pieces,
they will bloom resurrected in the kitchen.
This is how you become everything that lives.

And so at last, you sleep, in the circle of my arms
that push back the shadows so that you can rest—
vegetables, seaweed, herbs: the foam of your dreams.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is over at On the Way to Somewhere-- be sure to check it out!

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7. Barney Rosset Has Died

The great publisher Barney Rosset has passed away. Rosset bought Grove Press in the 1950s, championing the work of countless writers, including: Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Jack Kerouac, Malcolm X, Pablo Neruda, Kenzaburo Oe, Kathy Acker, and David Mamet.

In the 1960s, he launched the provocative magazine, Evergreen Review. In a highly recommended interview at The Paris Review, Rosset shared his first encounter with Miller’s work as a college freshman at Swarthmore:

I read Tropic of Cancer, which I bought at Steloff’s Gotham Book Mart on Forty-seventh Street. Who told me about it, I don’t know, but I liked it enormously and I wrote my freshman English paper about both it and The Air Conditioned Nightmare … After I read Tropic of Cancer, I left—decided to go to Mexico. Because the book had influenced me so much, I left in the middle of the term. But I ran out of money. I never got to Mexico; I got as far as Florida and I came back. Four weeks had gone by. They had reported me missing to the United States government. My family didn’t know where I was. I came back, sort of sadly.

(Via Sarah Weinman)

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8. Week-end Book Review: Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World

Edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy,
Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World
Frances Lincoln, 2011.

Ages 5-11

Let’s Celebrate is an effervescent anthology of diverse poetry put together by poets Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy. It invites young readers to share in the exuberance of a wide array of festivals celebrated around the world. Starting with “The Chinese Dragon” bringing in the Chinese New Year, ending with “Kwanzaa” in December, and visiting different cultures, countries and religions in between, the book takes children on a journey whose unifying thread is the happiness that each of the festivals awakens. Children will likely find poems relating to festivals that are familiar to them, and their curiosity will be aroused to find out about the rest. Endnotes about each festival give relevant background; and again, children may want to know more after reading them.

The poems themselves come in a variety of forms – some with regular patterns of rhyme and meter, others in free verse. There are choruses that just have to be chanted aloud, like “Carnival! Carnival! Everybody shout out – Carnival!” in Valerie Bloom’s wonderful poem “Carnival”. There are also translations, like the selection of Japanese “Cherry Blossom” haiku; “Dance, Dance: A Poem for Rangali Bihu” from Assam; and extracts from Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Tomatoes”, used to commemorate the Spanish Tomatina Festival. Illustrator Shirin Adl’s exuberant splashes of red paint certainly get the message across here!

In fact, the illustrations are a joy throughout. Adl uses an effective blend of painting and paper/fabric/photographic collage (I especially love the seeds, pulses and herbs illustrating Chatterjee’s acrostic “Diwali”). Plenty of authentic contextual detail helps to bring the celebrating to life, and lots of happy children and their families are an open-armed invitation for young readers to join in the celebrations too, whether it’s helping to scrape pancakes off the ceiling while “Tossing Pancakes” (by Nick Toczek), running to “get your skates on” for the “Ice Festival” (by D’Arcy), or counting out the significance of each candle for “Hannukah” (by Andrea Shavick).

So yes, let us indeed celebrate – you can’t help but be caught up in the joyous spirit of this anthology. And with every day being a festival somewhere in the world, as Chatterjee and D’Arcy point out in their introduction, if there isn’t a poem for their particular festive day (or indeed, even if there is), Let’s Celebrate! will doubtless inspire young readers to compose one of their own.

Marjorie Coughlan
November 2011

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9. POETRY FRIDAY: To Go Singing through the World

One of the best things about shopping for books in a small, independent children’s book store owned by a former children’s librarian is the quality and the kinds of books displayed on the shelves…and the absence of celebrity titles, Disney versions of fairy tales, and picture books about canines with chronic gastrointestinal disturbances.

Last week, as I browsed around in the Banbury Cross Children’s Book Shop, a book cover caught my eye. Looking closer, I read the title: TO GO SINGING THROUGH THE WORLD. Liked the title. Read the subtitle: THE CHILDHOOD OF PABLO NERUDA. Now how could a poetry lover like me let a book like that sit on the shelf? I picked up the book, settled myself down in one of the shop’s comfy wing chairs, and began reading.

The text of Deborah Kogan Ray’s picture book biography befits a biography about the young life of a great poet: It is well written…and oftentimes lyrical. In illuminating the early life of Neruda, she blends her words with those of the Nobel Prize winner. Neruda’s words and the excerpts from his poems are printed in italics so the transitions in the text’s third person and first person narrations are made clear to readers.

I found this book about the early years of Neruda’s life interesting and informative. Neruda, born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was raised in the town of Temuco—a pioneer mill town “in the shadow of volcanoes and surrounded by rain forests” in Chile. Neruda’s mother died when he was very young. His stern father, Don Jose, was a railway man who wanted his son to do well in school so he could have a better life. Don Jose married his second wife, Dona Trinidad—who became “the guardian angel” of the poet’s childhood. The young poet was a good listener and liked to hear the “old” stories his stepmother told him about the Mapuche, the native people who were called Indians by the settlers. He listened to the conversations at his father’s table. He was “curious about everyone he met and fascinated by the world around him.”

Deborah Kogan Ray compares the young Neruda to a silent, waiting volcano with fires stirring deep within him. He was shy, self-conscious about his stutter, and “deliberately set himself apart and tried to be different” from the other more “boisterous” boys who often threw acorns at him. He built a protective shell around himself. He lived in a world of books, in the nature of the rain forest that he loved, in the thoughts and images that burned inside him, in the words he was able to write down on paper but not express orally to others.

As Pablo grew—so grew the town in which he lived. He began writing about school events for a small local newspaper. About this time, Gabriela Mistral, a famous poet who later became the first Latin American woman to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, moved to Temuco. She was the new principal of the girls’ school. Mistral read the newspaper articles Neruda had written and “was impressed by his fine use of language…” She asked to meet the young man. Mistral became Neruda’s mentor. She gave him books to read, “opened new worlds” to him, and helped to crack the shell that he had built around himself. She encouraged Neruda to open up his heart and to express all the songs that were inside so the world could hear them.

This is a fine book in so many ways. Most importantly, it illuminates the life of a young man who was different from his peers, who didn’t do well in math, who lived in a world he had made for himself, who early on had a passion for stories and words, who had a burning curiosity to find out about the things that lay beyond his town—a young man with fears and desires who, with the love and understanding of a wonderful stepmother and the help and support of a caring and accomplished mentor, grew up to become one the world’s most celebrated poets. TO GO SINGING THROUGH THE WORLD is the kind of picture book biography I recommend to readers of all ages.

The back matter of the book includes Neruda’s poem, Poetry, printed in English and his native tongue, additional information about the lives of Neruda and Mistral, and a chronology of Neruda's life. On the front and back endpapers, readers will find a partial map of South America highlighting the country of Chile, as well as an illustration of the Town of Temuco—circa 1906.

P.S. I bought the book.


Written & illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Published by Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2006)

Pablo Neruda biography at the Nobel Prize Website

Poems by Pablo Neruda at poets.org

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10. Inkspell, La Perdida y Classic Neruda

Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher: The Chicken House
ISBN-10: 0439554004
ISBN-13: 978-0439554008

Imagine a world within the pages of a book. Imagine blue fairies, a world with men made of glass, a world where women have no rights. Imagine a man who can make flowers out of fire, who can speak to the fire and command it. Imagine that words come to life, stories become real, that someone with a powerful voice saying the right words can talk you right into that world and that world is very real.

Cornelia Funke first introduced the Inkworld in her very popular Inkheart (Scholastic, 2003) and I like so many booklovers who read it, fell completely in love. Inkspell is the unplanned sequel in what is now to be a trilogy and I for one am thrilled.

Inkspell is the story of Meggie, daughter to Mo the bookbinder (also known as Silvertongue) and Resa who was trapped in Inkheart. Meggie is fascinated by her mute mother’s written tales of the Inkworld and of the characters therein. Mo is frightened for his daughter and tries to discourage her from being so fascinated by it. But there’s no stopping Meggie when she wants something and she is determined to keep her dreams of the Inkworld.

Then there’s Dustfinger and Farid. Dustfinger is the fire-eater, the man who can command the fire to become flowers. Farid is a boy who was read out of yet another book. They are both trapped in Meggie’s modern world. Dustfinger has been trapped ten years and is dying to go home. He’s finally found someone with the power to read him back and even though Farid thinks it’s dangerous, he gets this person, Orpheus to read him back and it works. Dustfinger is suddenly home!

But Orpheus has ulterior motives and brings danger to Meggie’s family’s door. The evil witch Mortola and the equally evil Basta are back and they have horrible things planned for Meggie and Silvertongue.

A lot going on? Wait, it gets even better. Meggie is determined to go visit the Inkworld and Farid is equally determined to find Dustfinger. Between them they find a way and soon they too are magically transported to the Inkworld and set off in search of Dustfinger and Fenoglio, the writer of Inkheart. Meanwhile, Mo’s heart is broken because he’s lost his daughter, the family is in danger, Dustfinger encounters his own set of problems and the story is taking on a life of its own – out of Fenoglio’s control.

is wonderful! The characters, the names, the worlds, the stories within stories, everything about it is fantastic. There are names like Cheeseface, Clouddancer, Her Ugliness… There’s fire honey that gives Dustfinger his ability to talk to fire, the glass men sharpen quills, there is an illuminator and descriptions of his art. Oh, this is a book after any book lover’s heart. Highly recommended and in breathless anticipation of the sequel.

As Silvertongue says, "Stories never really end, Meggie, even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don't end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page."

La Perdida
Author: Jessica Abel
Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN-10: 0375423656
ISBN-13: 978-0375423659

La Perdida
is the story of Carla Olivares, a Mexican-American woman who decides to live in Mexico knowing virtually nothing about the real Mexico. She doesn’t speak Spanish and she has the romantic view that Mexico is somehow perfect. Like a lot of us Chicanas here she sees Mexico as her homeland and as something very different than what it really is.

Carla crashes at the apartment of her ex-boyfriend, a wealthy WASP till things get so bad he throws her out. Her time is spent visiting Frida Kahlo’s house, the pyramids and other monuments that she feels will help get her in touch with her Mexican side. She meets up with a bad group of people and some of the choices she makes are horrendous. I felt for Carla but was exasperated by her at the same time. Her treatment of people who are just trying to be her friends is apalling but understandable. I get why she's being such a bitch even while I'm cringing at her behavior.

The people Carla decides are her friends are petty criminals posing as revolutionaries. They play on Carla’s American guilt expertly, calling her conquistadora, a conquerer. To be a Chicana and to be called a conquistadora really hits home and these guys know how to play it up. Carla gets deeper and deeper, more and more sucked in, keeps making these incredibly stupid choices and Mexico becomes a dangerous nightmare. It’s an incredibly riveting story.

I know so many people like Carla (without the poor choices) so its easy to understand her. I get why Memo and Oscar give her such a hard time too. Jessica Abel writes so convincingly and it all rings very, very true.

The art just makes it even more incredible. Jessica Abel has such a commanding way of drawing characters. She manages to speak volumes with the way she draws a shoulder, an expression, the way people move. There are some great illustrations of the city that bring Mexico to life. I love the jacaranda trees that line the streets. They're so beautiful that I can almost smell them and feel their velvety purple blossoms.

Chicanos and Chicanas or pochos as they call us that grew up here longing for our homeland. It’s easy to glorify Mexico and its culture. It’s something we grew up lacking. Still, we are privileged here like it or not and when we go into Mexico, we’re perceived as American however much we see ourselves as Mexican. I’ve lived both in Mexico and here and even though for the most part I’ve fit in, there’s always been this sense of otherness that doesn’t quite fit.

La Perdida does a fantastic job of showing the angst felt by Mexican-Americans, our wanting to belong to our homeland while feeling cut off from it. It shows how much we love our culture and how different real Mexican life is from what we percieve it to be. The graphic novel medium adds incredible depth and intensity to the already riveting story.

In Honor of the Month of Poetry who better to talk about than Pablo Neruda?

On the blue shore of silence
Poems of the Sea
Pablo Neruda

Of all the Neruda anthologies that I have read, this is by far the most eloquent tribute to his love of the sea and his home on Isla Negra in Chile.

The English translations are done by Alastair Reid, Mr. Neruda’s favored translator and it flows as naturally as does the Spanish original. I speak both languages and it is always such a pleasure to see a translation so elegantly done.

The artwork by Santa Barbara artist and writer Mary Heebner is as sumptuous as Pablo Neruda’s poetry and truly reflects the feel of the ocean. Her paintings capture the mood of each poem perfectly and add to the emotion of his words. (See her site for further viewing of all the Isla Negra paintings and her amazing collages).

It is I believe the only anthology that has focused solely on his poems of the sea.

The book is bilingual with the text in Spanish on one page and English on the other. It contains my favorite of Neruda’s poems, The Soliloquy of the Waves.

Even the typeset and Neruda’s name on the dust jacket painted in a blurry sea blue reflect the ocean that the poems are about.

Pablo Neruda has been a favorite poet of mine for many, many years and this stunning book is a wonderful addition to my collection of his anthologies. It is a beautiful piece to celebrate his centenary.

3 Comments on Inkspell, La Perdida y Classic Neruda, last added: 4/12/2007
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11. Martín Espada on PBS

La Bloga friend and stellar poet, Martín Espada, will be interviewed on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal this Friday, July, 13th. In this revealing interview, Espada talks with Moyers about the inspirations and foundations of his poetry, and the significance of poetry to the world today. And for our conversation with Martín and of review of The Republic of Poetry, go here and here.

Make sure you also visit http://pbs.org/moyers where you can read poems from his latest book The Republic of Poetry, and leave your comments on - http://pbs.org/ moyers/journal/blog

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12. Martín Espada on PBS TONIGHT!

Stellar poet and La Bloga friend, Martín Espada wil be interviewed on Bill Moyers Journal will be aired on PBS, Friday, July 20th (9 PM EST)--

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13. Poetry Friday

One of the things I love most about poets is their ability to see the beauty in what seems to be the most mundane things. A great poet can make a pile of trash seem fascinating and beautiful just by the way they arrange simple words and rhythm.

Pablo Neruda was a master at this. His gorgeous poem Oda a la cebolla/Ode to an Onion is one of the most beautiful poems in both English and the original Spanish. He makes an onion seem like the most glorious of jewels.

The round up is here.

Oda a la cebolla

luminosa redoma,
pétalo a pétalo
se formó tu hermosura,
escamas de crystal te acrecentaron
y en el secreto de la tierra oscura
se redondeó tu vientre de rocío.
Bajo la tierra
fue el milagro
y cuando apareció
tu torpe tallo verde,
y nacieron
tus hojas como espadas en el huerto,
la tierra acumuló su poderío
mostrando tu desnuda transparencia,
y como en Afrodita el mar remoto
duplicó la magnolia
levantando sus senos,
la tierra
así te hizo,
clara como un planeta,
y destinada ,
a relucir ,
constelación constante,
redonda rosa de agua,
la mesa
de las pobres gentes.

Nos hiciste llorar sin afligirnos.
Yo cuanto existe celebré, cebolla,
pero para mi eres
más hermosa que un ave
de plumas cegadoras
eres para mis ojos
globo celeste, copa de platino,
baile inmóvil
de anémona nevada

y vive la fragancia de la tierra
en tu naturaleza cristalina.

Ode to the Onion

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

translation by Stephen Mitchell

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a beautiful idea and both AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos want to be part of it! Head on over to 7 for a look. More on that later.

3 Comments on Poetry Friday, last added: 9/14/2007
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14. Poetry Friday - 19

This week a friend in the Philippines introducted me to the poetry of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (how cosmopolitan is the WWW?!) - whose poetry I'd not previously encountered. I particularly like this poem. For some reason the line "I love you as certain dark things are to be loved" makes me think of Shakespeare:

XVII (I do not love you...)

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Translated by Stephen Tapscott

This week the Poetry Friday round-up really IS with Kelly Fineman (I mistook the date last week, so I apologise if I caused any confusion...)

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15. friday feast: rhapsody in tomato

A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins."  ~ Laurie Colwin

                       "Ripe Tomatoes" by Robert Duncan, oil on canvas.

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
There's only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

I can't get this Guy Clark song out of my head. And ain't it the gosh darn truth?

There's nothing that says summer like homegrown tomatoes. Sure wish we had some.

Oh, we had buckets of them when we lived at our old house. Len had a nice sized vegetable garden, and almost every weekend during the summer, he'd go out and pick a few ruby red beefsteak beauties. He'd slice into one of those sun-warm, smooth, shiny globes to reveal chambers harboring gelatinous seeds. Then he'd let me have first pick of the slices for my sandwich -- sometimes just lightly toasted bread, mayo, a bed of thin cucumber and tomato slices, or if I was feeling the slightest bit frisky, I'd throw caution to the wind and grind on a BLT.

Ah, the rapture!


Now that we live in the woods, we don't get enough sun for a garden. Though we buy from roadside stands or farm markets, it's never quite the same as tomatoes freshly picked, minutes old, grown in your own patch of dirt. I don't think there's any other fruit? vegetable? fruit? whose taste and quality varies so greatly between the supermarket and homegrown versions.

A homegrown tomato, or as close as you can get to homegrown, is, dare I say it -- pure poetry.

Just listen to these names -- Purple Haze, Marmande, Juliet, San Marzano, Box Car Willie, Aunt Ruby's German Green. There's even Moneymaker and Mortgage Lifter.

Somewhere, almost everywhere in the world, there is a tomato for all seasons, sensibilities, climates, and culinary uses, to satisfy the most discerning of palates. Without the tomato, there would be no salsa, no Bloody Marys, no barbecue sauce, no ketchup, no gazpacho, no sauce, paste, or puree for pasta. It would mean the demise of Italian cuisine (kill me, already)! Worst of all, I shudder to think, can barely dare to say it, there would be no tomato soup (voted as the writer's favorite in my highly scientific poll). 

*Cue in gratuitious gasping and weeping*

Oh, where, on God's green earth, would I float my alphabets?

Precious pomodoro, forgive us our barbaric finger-pointing, and accept this small yet luminous token of our undying adoration. He is a poet from Chile, born on the continent of your origin.

by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is 
its juice
through the streets.

(Rest is here.)

If you wish to make amends and share your tomato love, check out the East Nashville Art Fest. They are sponsoring a Tomato Haiku Competition (deadline is Monday, August 4th). You are allowed to enter up to 5 haiku, so sip some sauce this weekend and start slicing up those metaphors.

See the world's largest tomato here.

Beautiful examples of tomato art here from the Carmel TomatoFest (scroll down).

To hear the song, "Homegrown Tomatoes," performed by two uber homegrown guitar pickin' scruffy singers, click here.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Well Read Child.

             "The tomato: a uniter, not a divider -- bringing together
               fruits and vegetables."


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16. Learning as I Teach

It was a movie weekend—"Slumdog Millionaire" at ten on Friday night, "Frost/Nixon" at 4:15 Sunday, "Mongol," courtesy of Netflix, in between, late Saturday afternoon. And then the Oscars, a tradition strong as Christmas here—a semi-glamorous meal delivered picnic style while the "barely mint" dresses float by. The Oscars always make me cry. Call me a sentimental fool (you won't be the first), but I like seeing dreams fulfilled. I like the idea that it's possible.

In between, I was walking about my humble abode feeling knocked-down grateful for all the book recommendations that came my way via Looking for Book Love, for all the passion that is out there, still, for stories that cling to the page. While I considered the titles that came in, I read essays on writing and craft—re-read them, I should say, in preparation for Tuesday, when I'll spend a chunk of the day in a coffee shop with aspiring young writers. Sven Birkerts, Natalia Ginzburg, Mary Oliver, Jack Gilbert, Gerald Stern, Stanley Kunitz, Forrest Gander, and of course Pablo Neruda will keep me and the girls company throughout a day that will also be spent collecting and sorting the details we hunt down with our cameras.

We'll yield to six exercises, which I've named the following way. I plan to write right alongside the girls, for I am not the sort of writer who believes she definitively knows. I'm the sort who keeps trying to find out. Who learns as she teaches, and as she goes.

The class in brief (should you wish to write along...):

Leveraging Involuntary Memory
The Perceiving I
The Hunt for Character
The Fair Release of Story
The Act of Autobiography
Vulnerable Fictions

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17. Still thinking about sentences (and Pablo Neruda)

Last night, my enormously gracious hostesses at St. Joseph's University—Ann Green and April Lindner—shared their students with me.  Some had read Dangerous Neighbors.  Some had read You Are My Only.  All of them, many in the graduate program, spend their days thinking about words and writing.

I talked about the future of young adult literature.  I also continued to talk about sentences.  Why they matter.  How they are crafted.  What we put at risk if we, as a nation, a culture, foist only plots upon one another, and not song.

Yesterday on this blog, I shared some of my own sentences in the making—a beginning place, a mid place—as well as a reminder of a NaNo contest I am conducting.  Last night, at St. Joe's, I read from that same James Wood essay in The New Yorker that I celebrated here not long ago—that lesson in beautiful writing. 

Today I mean only to share these few words from a Pablo Neruda poem.  These are simple lines, simple words.  No pyrotechnics, no self-conscious gloss, no unnecessary intricacies.  Good sentences, I am saying, don't have to be complex.  But they must always be true.

From Neruda:

Only the shadows
the secrets
of closed houses,
only the forbidden wind
and the moon that shines
on the roof

2 Comments on Still thinking about sentences (and Pablo Neruda), last added: 11/8/2011
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