margarita engle’s sweet scent hunger

#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

“In Latin America in general, and Cuba in particular, poets have been the inspiration behind struggles for independence, struggles for freedom of all sorts.” ~ Margarita Engle (PW Interview, 2009)

I think most of us will agree that for some things, only poetry will do.

Verse can capture the full range of human emotion in its purest form, distilling its essence for all time. This is what award-winning author Margarita Engle does so brilliantly in her historical novels-in-verse, which I love for their cultural richness, soaring lyricism and enduring power. Each of her books is a work of incomparable beauty, a crystallized portrait of unvarnished truth and harsh realities culled from a complex situation enmeshed in the broader canvas of Cuban history.

With just a few strokes, Margarita is able to break your heart at the turmoil and horrors of war and revolution, the social injustices endured by oppressed women, the unspeakable atrocities of slavery. History is personalized, anguish is personified, with her focus on strong role models, individuals in terrible circumstances who have overcome unimaginable obstacles.

So, we are uplifted and inspired by wilderness nurse Rosa la Bayamesa, who chose to respond with kindness and compassion while her country was being torn apart by successive wars, or by poet slave Juan Francisco Manzano, whose courageous actions and fortitude prove that the heart and imagination can never be suppressed. Ultimately, our faith is restored in the untold resilience and shining beauty of the human spirit. The voices in her poems blend to make unforgettable music — a clear, unfettered song of hope and freedom triumphing over adversity.

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