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Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, serving from 2017 to 2019. Awarded by the Poetry Foundation for a two-year term, the Young People’s Poet Laureate aims to raise awareness that young people have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.

Read more about Margarita Engle.

From Poetry Off the ShelfJune 2017

Margarita Engle on the subject of her poetry, and her message to young readers.

Margarita's January Pick

Book Pick

Words with Wings
By Nikki Grimes
Boyds Mills Press, 2013

Book Cover of Words with Wings

January is Creativity Month, and I can’t think of a better middle grade verse novel about creativity than Nikki Grimes’s Words With Wings. Highlighting the value of daydreams, memories, and the five senses, these linked poems can show children the joy of letting their thoughts soar. “The word fly / had set me free, / and I wondered, / Are there other words / that can carry me away?” Many of the poems in this book are actually poetry writing prompts that can be used in a classroom. With titles like “Stilts,” “Waterfall,” and “Firefly,” the narrator demonstrates how it feels to be inspired by a winged word. “Say ‘comet,’ / and I am weightless, / playing ping-pong / with small planets, / dodging asteroids, / and skipping through space / in slow motion.” One of my favorite passages comes near the end of the book, when a teacher says, “Okay, class, workbooks shut. / It’s daydream time.”

Browse more book picks!
Poems by Margarita Engle
    • poem
      By Margarita Engle
      Mad has decided to catch a vulture,
      the biggest bird she can find.
      She is so determined, and so inventive,
      that by stringing together a rickety trap
      of ropes and sticks, she creates
      a puzzling structure that just might
      be clever enough to trick a buzzard,

    • poem
      By Margarita Engle
      On an island of music
      in a city of drumbeats
      the drum dream girl
      of pounding tall conga drums
      tapping small bongó drums
      and boom boom booming
      with long, loud sticks
      on bit, round, silvery
      moon-bright timbales.
      But everyone
      on the island of music
      in the city of drumbeats
      believed that only...

    • poem
      By Margarita Engle
      Newsmen call it the Cuban Missile Crisis.
      Teachers say it's the end of the world.

      At school, they instruct us to look up
      and watch the Cuban-cursed sky.
      Search for a streak of light.
      Listen for a piercing shriek,
      the whistle that will warn us
      as poisonous...

Past Laureates
    • Image of the poet Jacqueline Woodson.

      Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of over 30 books for children and young...

    • author

      Kenn Nesbitt was born in Berkeley, California. He grew up in Fresno and San Diego and attended National University in San Diego, where he majored in computer science. Nesbitt’s poetry...

    • author

      Former Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis grew up in Gary, Indiana and earned a BA at Saint Joseph’s College, an MA at Indiana University, and a PhD in economics...

    • author

      Mary Ann Hoberman was born in Stamford, Connecticut. She earned a BA in history from Smith College and (35 years later) an MA in English literature from Yale University. She...

    • author

      Jack Prelutsky is a creator of inventive poems for children and adults alike. He served as the Poetry Foundation’s Children’s Poet Laureate from 2006 to 2008. Prelutsky grew up in...