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Margarita Engle Named Young People’s Poet Laureate

Award recognizes a career devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers
May 11, 2017
Margarita Engle

CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation is honored to announce that Margarita Engle has been named the Young People’s Poet Laureate. Awarded every two years, the $25,000 laureate title is given to a living writer in recognition of a career devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. The laureate advises the Poetry Foundation on matters relating to young people’s literature and may engage in a variety of projects to help instill a lifelong love of poetry among the nation’s developing readers. This laureateship aims to promote poetry to children and their families, teachers, and librarians over the course of its two-year tenure.

“Margarita Engle’s passion, knowledge of nature, and curiosity about the world make her work fascinating to children and adults alike,” says Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “We are delighted that Ms. Engle has accepted the position of Young People’s Poet Laureate and will now be a greater part of the Poetry Foundation community.”

Poet, novelist, and journalist Margarita Engle was born in Pasadena, California, to a Cuban mother and an American father. She is the author of many children’s books, including Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music (2015), The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist (2015), Mountain Dog (2014), When You Wander (2013), and Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian (2010). She has also authored the novels Singing to Cuba (1993) and Skywriting: A Novel of Cuba (1995), as well as several young adult novels in verse, including Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal (2016); The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (2015); The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom (2008), which received a Newbery Honor and won a Pura Belpré Award; Tropical Secret (2009), winner of a Sydney Taylor Award for Teen Readers and a Paterson Prize; and Hurricane Dancers (2011), nominated for an ALA Best Books for Young Adults award. Engle has also authored the Pura Belpré Author Award–winning memoir Enchanted Air (2016). On the impact Cuba has had in her writing, she says, “For more than three decades, official US government travel restrictions made [visiting Cuba] impossible, so I used my imagination, remembering childhood visits, and wondering about the person I would be if that right to travel back and forth freely had not been taken away from me by a historical situation.” Engle lives in central California and has taught agronomy at California State Polytechnic University. 

Engle’s poetry is featured on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

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