Poet, novelist, and journalist Margarita Engle was born in Pasadena, California, to a Cuban mother and an American father. She earned a BS from California State Polytechnic University and an MS from Iowa State University, and she studied for her doctoral degree in biology at the University of California, Riverside. She is the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate.
Engle 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 Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography...
What is a Young People’s Poet Laureate?
Awarded by the Poetry Foundation for a two-year tenure, 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.
Past Poem Picks
This month, I want to celebrate a poet born in May. Rather than choose a book by someone else, I’m choosing two poems by Jane Cortez: one written and one spoken. Born on May 10, 1936, Cortez was an activist, organizer, and poet. From her I learned you don’t have to choose one way to write or one way to live, and that the work you do in your life can move the world toward a greater good while at the same time being thoughtful, lovely, and lasting. Cortez was a stunning poet and a determined activist, and she continues to be an inspiration after her death in 2012. In the words of Jane Cortez: find your own voice, and use it.
These New York City Pigeons
cooing in the air shaft
are responsible for me
stubbing my toe
spraining my ankle
and getting sick on ammonia fumes
That pigeon roosting on the clothesline
stole my nightgown
Those pigeons on the street lamp
made me feel foolish
while riding in a black...
The First Lady honored the 2015 class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the nation’s highest honor for youth poets. This award celebrates the exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise of this generation of leaders.