The footsteps in Montegrande are silent. The little school is inhabited by children who emerge happily when the recess bell breaks the serenity. In front of the school is the square where a man walks around with a parrot on his shoulder. There, raised with her hard and mountainous face, the statue of Gabriela Mistral seems to accompany a conversation about the childhood love of books.
Margarita Engle dedicates her latest book, Singing with Elephants, to teachers. In this simple act she invokes the presence of Mistral, the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1945). In her book, Margarita takes Gabriela’s hand and invites her to whisper in a book of extraordinary ecological and human candor.
Olivia, an immigrant girl from Cuba, called out of curiosity, dares to address that mysterious woman who writes notes in the front yard of her house in Santa Barbara, California. From that meeting begins a search for a poetic voice. Margarita invites us to accompany the birth of a poetess. The lullaby of the elephants turns into inspiring sounds. Nature decants precious materials that gradually fall into the pages written by Olivia.
Singing with elephants is a pedagogical guide to learn and teach poetry. This is why it is an excellent book for teachers. It raises the importance of the personal search; overcoming fears and wounds; breaking or taking advantage of silence; self-recognition; to discover that inner voice that is poetry.
This search and this discovery take place in a society convulsed by the end of World War II. A society that still does not accept linguistic difference as a creative power, and rather punishes it. Animals are used, exiled from their natural environment, and end up being separated from their mothers. Underlying this book is the terrible question of how far have we come at not repeating these evils?
Margarita’s poetry manual is offered as an instrument of peace. The word, as Gabriela well defended, is a home for intimate expression, and it is from this intimacy that the world can be transformed. Since art is ultimately the best way to touch hearts, it is the pedagogical touch of love for the other.
This book will be published in May, 2022.