Friday, September 12, 2008

New Review: ANIMAL POEMS by Alarcón

I’m a big fan of Francisco X. Alarcón’s work—I love his succint language, in Spanish AND English, and the picture book format for his poetry that includes vivid and colorful mural-like illustrations. His latest is a wonderful addition, particularly for teachers and librarians who often feature ANIMAL poetry in their curricular units. His new book, Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú published by Children’s Book Press, and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is a bilingual poetry collection about the flora and fauna of the Iguazú rainforest and national park in South America.

When he read from the collection at this summer’s ALSC Poetry Blast (held in June at the ALA convention) he said the poems were based on his travels to a rainforest in South America where he “interviewed” the animals. Most of the 25 poems are in the persona of the subject, “following the Amerindian tradition… the animals of the Iguazú speak for themselves,” including the toucan, parrot, hummingbird, swift, lizard, mosquito, giant ant, monkey, turtle, and the falls and jungle themselves. Here’s my favorite poem (in Spanish and English) that reflects the very heart of the collection and the rainforest itself.

Jaguareté (Jaguar)
by Francisco X. Alarcón

dicen que ahora

estoy casi extinto

por este parque

pero la gente

que dice esto

no sabe

que al oler
las orquídeas

en los árboles

están percibiendo

la fragancia

de mis fauces

que al oír

el retumbo

de los saltos

están escuchando

el gran rugido

de mis ancestros

que al observar

las constelanciones

del firmamento

están mirando

las motas de estrellas

marcadas en mi piel

que yo soy
y siempre seré
el indomable

de esta

p. 18

Jaguareté (Jaguar)
by Francisco X. Alarcón

some say
I’m now almost

extinct in this park

but the people

who say this

don’t know

that by smelling
the orchids
in the trees

they’re sensing

the fragrance
of my chops

that by hearing

the rumbling

of the waterfalls

they’re listening

to my ancestors’
great roar

that by observing

the constellations

of the night sky

they’re gazing

at the star spots

on my fur

that I am and

always will be

the wild


living spirit

of this jungle

p. 19

Alarcón, Francisco X. 2008. Animals Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.

Animal Poems is illustrated with mixed media art by Maya Christina Gonzalez, a 2008 Pura Belpré illustrator honor winner, in BOLD, vivid colors of thick deep green, turquoise and orange on thick pages of 100% recycled paper. It also includes a brief introduction and concluding information section. And for more information on Alarcón and his work, allow me to plug my book, Poetry People.

For more Poetry Friday connections, go to Biblio File.

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