Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Friday: Hurricane Dancers


Such a small word.

The cave bristles
with sharp crystals
shaped like beaks and claws,
and flowing ones that resemble
glassy waterfalls...

If I am not dreaming,
then perhaps I am dead,
wandering along the paths
of an afterlife
filled with wildness
and beauty.

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck Margarita Engle

I picked this one up mainly because it was a Belpre Honor book this year, but also because I've loved the other Engle books I've read.

Like most (all?) of her work, this is Cuban historical fiction, told in verse. There are two stories here-- the first is the (true) story of Bernadino de Talavera, a disgraced landowner who steals a ship to escape debtors prison and becomes a pirate. He then kidnaps Alonso de Ojeda, the governor of Venezuela. They get shipwrecked in a hurricane and land on the South Coast of Cuba. The second story is of Caucubu, the daughter of a chieftain, who fell in love with Narido, a fisherman. In order to escape an arranged marriage, Caucubu ran away from home and hid in a cave. This is also a true story and one that has been told and told and told throughout the centuries by Cuban authors. The link between the stories is the (fictional) Quebrado, a half-Taino, half-Spanish slave who survives the shipwreck and is rescued by Narido and must warn them of what de Talavera and de Ojeda are capable of.

These five voices narrate the book in this short tale of contact. The main thread of the story is Quebrado's escape and fragile freedom and how he grows and discovers himself. The problem is it's too short-- the other stories aren't fully realized or told and steal focus away from Quebrado. I wanted so much more. The juxtaposition and intertwining of the two stories demands something a little more... epic and sweeping than this sparse and slight tale.

Today's Poetry Friday Round up is over at Gotta Book. Be sure to check it out!

Book Provided by... my local library

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1 comment:

GatheringBooks said...

Hi Jennie, it's good to read your review since I received a copy of this lovely book from Margarita herself (she is one of our guest speakers here in Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children's Content, May of this year) - which she sent three months ago. We are also featuring her for our "Meet the Storyteller" in GatheringBooks and would be doing several interviews with her. I'm pretty excited to read this one and Wild Book. I enjoyed her Firefly Letters and Surrender Tree.