Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In the soup

I have another Latino poetry collection to share-- this one has the added advantage of being bilingual in English and Spanish: Jorge Argueta’s Sopa de frijoles/ Bean Soup, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng.

This book really snuck up on me and I just have to share it with everyone. It’s a long segmented poem spread out across 14 pages of text (always on the left) accompanied by rectangular paintings framed in white (always on the right hand side). This pleasing, predictable format makes it easy to read either or both the Spanish and English poems (with the Spanish poem placed immediately above the English poem—a subtle thing I really appreciated). The paper is thick and creamy and the little boy pictured in every scene is an engaging “everyboy.”

Add to this the fact that this is truly a recipe with instructions for cooking. All contained in a poem full of metaphors and similes. Here’s just a “taste.” (I’ll post both the Spanish and the English version for this page of the poem.)

El aguita hierve y canta.*
Los frijolitos bailan unos

con otros.

El aguita se ha vuelto

morena como el color

de la Madra Tierra.

Tu casa

está olorosa
como la tierra

en las primeras

lluvias de invierno.

+ + +

The water boils and sings.*
The beans dance
The water has turned brown

the color of Mother Earth.

Your house

smells wonderful

like the earth

after the first

winter rains.

Argueta, Jorge. 2009. Sopa de frijoles/ Bean Soup. Ill. by Rafael Yockteng. Toronto, ON: Groundwood.

*A note at the beginning of the book alerts us to the fact that “all stages of the recipe that are marked * require the participation or supervision of an adult.” Smart move! Very essential for safety when cooking with kids and completely unobtrusive to the poem.

I love that Argueta has written BOTH the Spanish (first) and the English versions of the poetry. It is SUCH a challenge to capture the music and magic of poetry in ANY language, much less in TWO languages, but he clearly has a gift for it and knows his own intentions better than anyone in providing the translation.

I was familiar with Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta’s previous poetry book, A Movie in My Pillow/Una película en mi almohada (Children’s Book Press, 2001) which I really enjoyed. But I didn’t realize that he has also authored another collection in the interim that I have missed:

Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra (Groundwood, 2006)
[Have you noticed how many smart and wonderful poetry books Groundwood publishes? Particularly from many countries around the world?]

And for more Latino poetry about food and foods, look for:
Ada, Alma Flor. 1997. Gathering the Sun. New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard.
Alarcón, Francisco X. 1997. Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risuenos y Otros Poemas de Primavera. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
Mora, Pat. 1998. Delicious Hullabaloo/Pachanga Deliciosa. Houston, TX: Pinata Books.
Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!: America's Sproutings. New York: Lee & Low.

And of course, you absolutely, positively HAVE to make bean soup after reading this book. You can almost smell and taste it as you read the poetry and the directions are amazingly clear and easy to follow. The book flap calls bean soup “comfort food for many”—a good reminder and a worthwhile discussion to have with kids as they experience it firsthand.

Image credit: search.barnesandnoble.com

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

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