"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Friday, September 28, 2007

A Conversation with Ana Castillo

Ana Castillo is a celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. She is considered to be one of the leading voices to emerge from the Chicana experience. Castillo is an incredibly prolific author and poet whose work has been critically acclaimed and widely anthologized in the United States and abroad. She has long been an activist and feminist as well as a strong voice for social change.

Castillo’s books include the novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters (Bilingual Review Press, 1986; Doubleday, 1992), Sapogonia (Bilingual Review Press, 1990), So Far From God (Norton, 1993), Massacre of the Dreamers: Reflections on Mexican-Indian Women in the United States 500 Years After the Conquest (University of New Mexico, 1992) and I Ask the Impossible (Anchor Books, 2001).

Castillo has coordinated an anthology on la Virgen de Guadalupe entitled La Diosa de las Americas/Goddess of the Americas (Riverside/Putnam, 1996), Peel My Love Like an Onion (Doubleday) in 1999 and a children’s book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove. In 2005 she published a dramatic work Psst…I have something to tell you, mi amor (Wings Press) and most recently published her latest book The Guardians (Random House).

Born and raised in Chicago, Castillo currently lives in New Mexico, although she is currently teaching at MIT in Boston. The Ana Castillo website contains a complete bio and list of publications and awards.

For me personally, Ana Castillo is my hero, a role model and one of my favorite authors and poets. I've always admired her activism and her writing. Ms. Castillo very kindly took time out from her busy schedule at MIT to speak with me about her poetry, her books and her activism. I found her to be gracious, warm and brilliant. We had a lovely conversation and I gained both knowledge and inspiration from it.

GR: I loved your children's coming of age book My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove - do you ever think you will write another book for children?

AC: Well, it's not always a matter of wanting to write something; sometimes it's a matter of getting it published. That book didn't do very well and is going out of print soon. I did write a book for babies from the huehuetlatolli but couldn't find a publisher that was interested in taking it on.

GR: It's a shame that the coming of age book is going out of print. It's such a beautiful book.

AC: I know, I know. And like I said I had the baby book, the huehuetlatolli, for the newborns and we passed that around. I wanted to do that about a year or so with this one. So you know you kind of lose your energy on it and then you move on to what else you have to get done like you know, a novel and so all those things are on the back burner right now.

GR: I loved The Guardians.

AC: Thank you.

GR: I loved Regina. She was a lot more timid and vulnerable than like say, Carmen La Coja of Peel My Love Like an Onion but she was wonderful. She was such a great character and I liked her so much. She was very easy to relate to.

AC: Thank you.

GR: What was your inspiration for The Guardians?

AC: Well I have been making my home in Southern New Mexico for the last four years splitting my time there and teaching and it’s out in the desert. The Franklin Mountains are in view. There’s a picture of me standing there outside of my house and you can see the Franklins behind me and actually that was the initial take off point for me in the story imagining someone on the other side of those of those mountains waiting to cross over. It was a cold morning and it was very misty – you couldn’t even see them but you knew they were there. That’s how it started for me. The first question is how would it be like for someone who’s waiting this morning to cross over and the other question was who’s waiting. And so I went over to my laptop and started writing the story.

GR: It’s a beautiful story, especially for someone like me who grew up with people who came during the revolution. My grandfather came over when he was about 14 years old from Guanajuato.

AC: Well my grandmother brought her son who had chased after Pancho Villa. He was 14 at that time too. She grabbed him in Torreon and then they went into Chicago and didn’t stop till they got there.

GR: A lot of people ended up in Chicago. My grandfather used to call it Cheecago.

AC: Yeah (laughs), so did we, ah ha Cheecago. But that’s how we got there and it’s just funny how people don’t know the history. Back in the 70’s people would say, “oh you’re from Chicago and you speak Spanish?” Of course a lot of Mexican people went up there. There were factories and the stockyards and the steel mills. So there was work for people.

GR: Yeah it’s how people ended up where they ended up during that time. My grandmother was born on the way and her family ended up in Piru – Ventura County picking oranges. They were hiding from Pancho Villa. So many of these families have these interconnected Pancho Villa stories.

AC: Exactly. That’s what the book does with el abuelito who is claiming these connections and say okay well fine we don’t have these connections but we could have had them.

GR: That’s why I think The Guardians is so important. It touches on so many of our personal immigrant stories and our family stories. It’s very relatable to what’s going on with the borders. It’s an amazing book and probably one of my favorites next to I Ask the Impossible.

AC: Thank you.

GR: One of the questions I had for you was about activism and what more do you think needs to be done? What advice would you give to young Chicana women today? How to keep it going?

AC: Well I’ve had a couple of inquiries as a result of the subject of the book that I haven’t had recently from young people, like you know new college kids maybe. I decided sometime back personally for myself most of my activism goes into my writing and the commitment I have to the books that I do and speaking and so on. That came because as a very young person when you discover, when you have some consciousness and you discover where you fit and where your people fit in society and you decide that it’s not just. You know you have that zealousness of the young person that feels like you can go out and do it all. You know you save the world, save your gente, save women and before you know it if you try to do that you will burn out very quickly. My feeling is that I always think that and my advice to young people regardless of what times in these decades we’ve been living in there’s always work to be done. The point is what can you do personally that you can live with so that you can get up the next morning and have the strength to start it all over again. So whatever it is that people find that they want to work on they also have to remember that they are human beings and they need to save some time for themselves for personal growth, for mental health, for their families, their loved ones so that they will have the strength to continue doing that work. So if you decide well you know I don’t have much time, my kids are in school and you want to get online and do letter writing to your senators, your local congressman on the Internet that’s something to do. That can be done. It doesn’t have to be doing it all, going out into the streets rioting, getting arrested. There are other ways to show your presence.

GR: Yes and it can consume you if you’re not careful.

AC: It does consume you because once you realize that one thing is related to the other, you’re outraged by injustice in general. So that’s what I would recommend. I have found my blog one source for that because I have readers. I don’t know how many readers but I know I have readers. I know there’s people out there because they respond every now and then and they’re not only in this country but they are in other countries and I think that is such a tremendous tool that we have these days with the internet. To be able to reach out to people all over the world that 20 years ago or 30 years ago was just impossibility. So I would say that and I think that another way to do that if you’re more hands on is to start in your own immediate community. That community could be your town, it can be your ward, your district, your town, your school and to see what needs to be done there. That’s one step. I also feel that it’s very important for young people to have a sense of history and do research and don’t re-invent the wheel and don’t think that you’re the first martyr to discover social injustice but to take advantage of previous generations of activists and find out what they did and how they resolved things.

GR: Right, right. It’s interesting. My mom was an activist and I saw her burn out very fast. I’m a danzante Azteca and that’s how that and book reviews – trying to get the Latino community reading is my personal torch to carry.

AC: And we absolutely need that as we have a growing body of Latino literature. We absolutely need it and I found myself on a tirade recently if you read my blog because you know it’s been happening obviously since the 80’s. You have activists coming out of the 60’s and 70’s and then you start getting people that are taking the opportunities for their education and then becoming Republican and becoming to my mind retroactive activity. One of them are we are living still in the time in which it’s not as if every Latino writer has the same opportunity as every white writer to get published. We are still seeing many of us, except for a handful are still seen as ethic or minority writers and therefore we are not writing to the universal experience. This has been a truism as far as I’ve known since the 80’s. The first people to go out and slam another Latino or Latina or another minority are their own people.

GR: Right, the crabs in the bucket.

AC: Yes! I was just outraged, not because people don’t have an opinion to like or dislike my work but why are you going to go do that out in the public? We already have enough going against us than to have our own people doing the dirty job for the mainstream.

GR: That kind of thing drives me crazy which leads me to my next question. What steps forward do you think we’ve made as women and Chicana women and what steps backward have we made since the 70’s, 80’s?

AC: Well we aren’t isolated from the rest of the country and the rest of the world and so as we were opening up those opportunities just as other ethnic groups, newer generations are able to assume that perhaps that they can get into college, that they can go away to school, that they can take certain careers. I think those are some of the wonderful things that have happened. The downside is that in my opinion we lost, some of the work that we also did as Chicana feminists that still needs to be done and that is and this isn’t the case of course with everybody but we also see now they’re not feminists, their not necessarily self defined as Chicanas, are young women marketing their careers vis a vis their bodies and that’s okay for them. And those are things that started evolving in the last ten or 15 years that when I started to see that I couldn’t believe what I had fought for was to see that. So I think that we’ve gone backward and I think that there is going to be a backlash with that. Maybe not today or tomorrow but there will be one. There was a reason that Chicanas wanted to be taken seriously for their intellect. To be able to get into positions of power for their intellect and not because you know they had cleavage, just the opposite in fact.

GR: Yeah I see a lot of the teenage girls and the way they dress and I just want to stop them and say mija – stop aren’t you reading? What are you doing? It’s a struggle with the girls – the media and the Internet and being so caught up in their looks. I think you’re right; we’re going to be hit with a backlash. Not just Latina women but women in general. We’re overly concerned about beauty, weight, etc.

AC: Well you know on the one had you can say that, when I hear for example that JLO is such a role model for Latinas, on the one hand I respect her for her business sense and I respect her for her ambition. But again, she’s in the entertainment world. She’s done it on her looks and very specifically on her anatomy. Madonna is also considered a great businesswoman and so is Yoko Ono. In the entertainment world that is a whole different story. I feel if I had a young daughter right now, I would feel a little discouraged if that was my daughter’s primary role model for success and for young people, for Latinas and Latinos. You know they think, oh she’s such a businessperson and she does this and that. Well yes, after you’ve made your money in a certain way whatever that way maybe. But again to me it is about social change and using your mind to implement those changes.

GR: Right. You know I just read a children’s book that I’m going to be reviewing. I have a children’s book review site for Latino children’s literature called Cuentecitos and I just read Monica Brown’s book on Gabriela Mistral. Now that’s a role model.

AC: Right and someone that we need to know about, that our children need to know about. In France where they have no shortage of adulation for their writers, I remember about 20 something years ago meeting some little girl, she was about ten years old and she had something like playing cards but they were about French writers. So that’s what I’m talking about. Those are the kinds of things we need to put out there for our young people.

GR: It’s important. Literacy is a big issue and sometimes I get a little discouraged but I just pick myself up and keep on going.

AC: What else can you do?

GR: One of my of my favorite things you write is your protest poetry. My favorite is Women Don’t Riot. It hits you in the gut. It’s an older poem but it still packs a punch.

AC: Yes, I wrote it right after the OJ Simpson case, after the decision was made. I think I wrote it right after that. It’s funny you mention that, I was just thinking that my son that is in his twenties now recorded me reading that and I think we posted it on the website. The way he sent it to me was Save My Mom and I saw that on my computer and I thought Save My Mom what is this and it was me reading that poem. It reminded me of what you were saying about your own mother. So that’s how he sees it.

GR: It’s a great voice and a beautiful poem that says so much. Are you going to be doing any more books of poetry?

AC: I never dismiss that possibility. I sure do hope so. It takes a very long time to get a collection that you want. You have to be selective and there’s also a theme and as I’ve gone more into prose there’s been less poetry. But you know Water Color Women was a 300-page poem that I did in 2005 so it’s not on my immediate agenda but I do hope that I am able to do another book in my lifetime. They take about ten years usually. Not Watercolor Women though.

GR: Well you have such a beautiful poetic voice it would be wonderful to see another book, another collection.

AC: Thank you.

GR: I read a Washington Post article recently about how you are haunted by your ancestors. Do you care to expand on that a bit?

AC: Well I think that’s one way, speaking of poetic voice I think that’s one way to put how writers come to their material. Especially postcolonial writers we come to our material haunted by our families, our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents migrations, haunted by history in a way that dominant society doesn’t have to do. You know things just have been going on as they’ve been going on, you know victory after victory. And we are reliving or working on a wound that we inherited and that’s the way it came to me to describe why I do write about Chicanos and Latinos, Mexicans I don’t even know how to describe us when we are American citizens who are always looked on as immigrants.

GR: Sometimes I think we do it to ourselves too. I mean I think of myself as a Mexican woman versus an American woman even though I am third generation, I was born here. My culture is so saturated in me that I consider myself a Mexicana.

AC: Well but that’s the debate that is given by people on the anti-immigrant side. They say that as long as you don’t assimilate like the good Europeans did who came to Ellis Island, you yourself are contributing to your own alienation. But I don’t really agree with that. I think that part of that comes because we have this unique relationship with being the Southwest of the United States became part of the U.S, in 1848 that no other country outside of the Native Americans really experiences that on this territory. At that time we are really made to feel alienated in this country forever. You know I live in New Mexico and there are people there in the village that I live in that their great, great, great grandfather established a town there and they definitely – I mean they may call themselves Hispanic (that’s the preferred term if your not a Mexican citizen) but they speak Spanish, they are you know look at Mestizo, proud of their Apache background but they definitely see themselves as marginalized or not white. And we’re not white. So I mean part of that has to do with we can’t assimilate because we have a very long history of being marginalized as people of color on these lands. You go where you feel most comfortable.

GR: I don’t think we want to assimilate because for me personally, I fight it kicking and screaming because I feel they are trying to take the color out of my life and kind of white wash me. Que no, que no! I am a danzante Azteca. I put on feathers and go out into the street and dance around in Native regalia. It’s very hard for me to assimilate.

AC: Well you know, this past weekend I was at the Brooklyn Book Festival and I was on a panel with two gentlemen writers and one was from Jamaica and one was from India and the point for me is that I am not from another country. Now I guess I live on the border but I do live on this side of the border.

GR: But we are treated as foreigners.

AC: Yes. So it’s a constant and you are treated as a foreigner and when they find out you’re not they lose interest in you. [Laughs]. Oh okay, one of those. You know what I’m saying? It’s like you lose credibility. When I’m asked if I write in English or in Spanish, I say I write in English why would I be writing in Spanish? I’m not Laura Esquivel. I’m from Chicago. So then they lose interest in you.

GR: Bueno, it’s a hard battle and it’s uphill but we gotta keep going.

AC: But I guess we signed up for it so it’s too late to turn back now!

GR: Right.

AC: Okay. Well thanks so much for the wonderful review that we received. You know you put a lot of hard work in your books and it’s easy for someone to say you know I didn’t like it.

GR: Well I loved it.

AC: Thanks for the work that you do too.

GR: Thanks so much.

Poetry Friday - Round 'em Up!

A little story tells a tale of flowers and song,
while Life longs for itself through a father's eyes
and a daughter's memories.
A swing in the air; nebulas, the universe locked in
While elsewhere there is tap dancing on the roof.
Greene connection with the dirt and grass,
Teeth, sneakers, foxes and rhyme.
A spiral of translucent words
Leads the brave poet past her fear.
Who but Martha spins her tales
Nearby, the autumn bonfires burn
As fairies dance for Michaelmas
and women, brave and daring leave fragments of themselves
but don't riot.
Bright ladies with cold hands
Face it all alone
The resurrection fern of iron and wine
while the eyes of a hungry dog look on andGod takes time to write a book
in long low notes the path to peace.
A baby cries in a bed of roses
and the impression I get
here in Burma
is that nonsense makes sense as much sense say
as noodles for breakfast do or frogs singing lullabies in a swamp.
Joy such a small word for such a big thing
like geese flying at night beyond the face of fear - a blessing.
Promises on a hillside, the discovery of plums in an icebox
a summer rich oak under which, the degenerate sons
release their Greek and Latin to the brownish beetle
as the King Monarch watches intently and thinks on
the luscious, impeccable fruit of life.
The rabbit in the mirror stops to stare behind daylight
at an army of words
and cowboy poetry rounds up Poetry Friday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Poetry Friday - Yikes I'm Hosting!

It's been a tremendously busy week for me and an exciting one. I've interviewed Ana Castillo (what an amazing lady she is), I've been researching illustrators, preparing for the Cybils, talking my nice boss into giving Dana-Farber free banner advertising and picking out safe new car seats for my grandkids along with my everyday work madness. I almost clean forgot Poetry Friday which would have been terrible since (gulp) I'm hosting and rounding up.

In honor of Ana Castillo and Poetry Friday - here is the link to her speaking her seminal poem - Women Don't Riot from her book I Ask the Impossible.

Women Don't Riot

I hope I figured out Mr. Linky. I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with for my first hosting Poetry Friday.

Please leave a comment after dropping your poem off with Mr. Linky. Happy Poetry Friday everyone!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rainy Day Reading, Contemplating and Cooking

It rained all last night and off and on throughout the day. The grandkids and I were cheated out of our walk but we're happy to have the rain here in sometimes too sunny California. My Grandma Lupe's long-standing tradition was always to make either caldo de rez (beef and vegetable soup) or caldo de pollo (chicken soup) on the first rainy day. It's a great tradition and I've done a darned good job in keeping it. My children always knew the first rainy day meant soup and some kind of baking and now my grandchildren are learning. Traditions are important to me.

It's Saturday. If it had been a Saturday when I was growing up, I'd have been lying under piles of blankets smelling the morning baking my grandmother was doing, smelling chiles roasting, hearing my grandfather banging out tortillas with his big rolling pin. If I had been at my mom's it would have been cartoons, cold cereal and a blanket on the couch. In my house now, Saturdays mean the grandkids are here. Cartoons? Once in a great while. I do work in animation... But mostly, Saturdays - rainy ones mean cuddling on the bean bags and reading stories. Today we read the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows. Isn't that a great book?

After reading, we piled into the car at the first break in the rain and headed to the Mexican market to get groceries for soup. I meant to do chicken but ended up wanting beef instead. I had a great time teaching my granddaughter Jasmine how to pick out the right vegetables. We had so much fun smelling herbs, squeezing lemons, looking at tomatoes, discussing chiles and laughing at the funny sounds of words in Spanish, English and Nahuatl. Words like loroco, flor de calabaza, tomatl, tomate, tomato. She has a good sense of what we need and she's only four. She knows that we want the juiciest, darkest red tomatoes for salsa, the firmer Romas for Spanish rice and things like salad. She knows the difference between the smell of oregano and thyme, can tell you what we use it for and that spearmint tea will take away a tummy ache. She's steeped in tradition and in her culture and that makes me happy to know that things like my grandmother's recipes won't be lost.

We bought chamorros de rez (beef shanks), soup bones, loroco, mexican squash, chayote or chayotl squash, squash flowers, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, chiles of four different varieties, lemons, new potatoes white and purple, tomatoes, carrots, white Mexican corn on the cob, celery, cabbage, cilantro, garlic and onions. We bought fresh Mexican white cheese (queso fresco) that crumbly mild almost ricotta-like wheel of cheese that is my favorite and Monterey Jack. We also bought huge pink and white marshmallows and a big pumpkin.

At home again, we set the soup bones and chamorros to mingle with fresh thyme, cilantro, oregano, a head of garlic and two quartered onions in boiling salted water while we read more about our friends Toad, Mole and the rest. I got in some crocheting while the grandkids napped and thought about next weeks Poetry Friday (yikes I'm hosting), Robert's Snow and the upcoming Cybil Awards. I have the honor of featuring four illustrators on both Cuentecitos and AmoXcalli for Robert's Snow - Blogging for A Cure organized by Jules and Eisha of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Those two are the most organized people I've run into in a while! I also have the honor of being a panelist again for graphic novels with the 2007 Cybil Awards. I'm going to be a busy girl!

Several hours later, we had a great beefy stock going. We pulled out the herbs, garlic, meat and bones and strained out the stock. We then added quarted potatoes in their skins and the carrots chopped into chunks. We let that get halfway done, then added chopped celery, chunks of chayote squash and fresh Mexican white corn on the cob and while that was cooking we sliced into paper thin wheels, the zucchini and Mexican squash which we carefully laid on top to steam along with a quartered cabbage. We put the lid on the pot and let that simmer for five minutes just long enough for the cabbage to wilt and change color.

I had made fresh roasted salsa earlier along with squash flower and loroco quesadillas and Spanish rice. We cut quesadillas into little crispy triangles oozing the mix of cheeses with little green and yellow flowers cascading out and arranged those on a plate with a little bowl of salsa in the middle. I stirred the meat back into the soup and served it out into each bowl making sure everyone got an ear of corn. The traditional way is to scoop out a spoonful of rice in the middle of the bowl then serve the soup right over it. We sat down to squeeze lemon over the hot soup and rice, nibbled quesadillas along with the soup and most of us scooped the salsa right into the soup as well. For dessert I had made hot Mexican chocolate with cinnamon covered by the huge marshmallows in pink and white and the fresh pumpkin empanadas that are my son Albert's favorites. My grandchildren are sleeping now full of stories, food and tradition.

Aren't rainy days wonderful?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Poetry Friday

A long time ago, another lifetime really, I was sitting in an Irish pub called Fado in Atlanta with the man I'd fall in love with over something as silly as him handing me a bottle of water later that evening when I noticed that my placemat had this poem printed on it in big blue letters.

I'm still in love with the guy, still have the placemat, still love Yeats and this poem always makes me want to be dreamy and cuddle up with my guy. It always makes me smile.

I love the sense of longing the poem invokes and the image of a peaceful place.

The round up is here.

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Monday, September 17, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

Just as I was recovering from the death of Madeleine L'Engle, I read on Galleycat the sad news that Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series has died.
To quote my one of my sons, "can this month get any suckier"?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday

One of the things I love most about poets is their ability to see the beauty in what seems to be the most mundane things. A great poet can make a pile of trash seem fascinating and beautiful just by the way they arrange simple words and rhythm.

Pablo Neruda was a master at this. His gorgeous poem Oda a la cebolla/Ode to an Onion is one of the most beautiful poems in both English and the original Spanish. He makes an onion seem like the most glorious of jewels.

The round up is here.

Oda a la cebolla

luminosa redoma,
pétalo a pétalo
se formó tu hermosura,
escamas de crystal te acrecentaron
y en el secreto de la tierra oscura
se redondeó tu vientre de rocío.
Bajo la tierra
fue el milagro
y cuando apareció
tu torpe tallo verde,
y nacieron
tus hojas como espadas en el huerto,
la tierra acumuló su poderío
mostrando tu desnuda transparencia,
y como en Afrodita el mar remoto
duplicó la magnolia
levantando sus senos,
la tierra
así te hizo,
clara como un planeta,
y destinada ,
a relucir ,
constelación constante,
redonda rosa de agua,
la mesa
de las pobres gentes.

Nos hiciste llorar sin afligirnos.
Yo cuanto existe celebré, cebolla,
pero para mi eres
más hermosa que un ave
de plumas cegadoras
eres para mis ojos
globo celeste, copa de platino,
baile inmóvil
de anémona nevada

y vive la fragancia de la tierra
en tu naturaleza cristalina.

Ode to the Onion

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

translation by Stephen Mitchell

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a beautiful idea and both AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos want to be part of it! Head on over to 7 for a look. More on that later.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, Dead at 88

Madeleine L'Engle died last night. She was, for me an inspiration. I've shared her wonderful books with so many people. I'm deeply saddened and feel her loss keenly. Like Kelly at Big A, little a, A Wrinkle in Time meant the world to me when I was growing up. The book went on to be one of my children's favorites as well and now I am reading it to my grandchildren.

AmoXcalli is in mourning. The kidlit blogosphere is in mourning.

There may be more later as I find out more. This is a tremendous loss for literature and the world.

I'll be adding links below as they come in:

Publishers Weekly

Publisher's Weekly Tribute to Madeleine L'Engle dated 9/13/07

An interview with Madeleine L'Engle

New York Times

Madeleine L'Engle's Official Website


ABC News - Chicago

Seattle Times

Charlotte Observer

Albuerquerque Tribune

International Herald Tribune

United Press International




The Ranting Room

CBC Canada

Jen Robinson

Kids lit

Wands and Worlds

Book Slut

The Elegant Variation

The Longstockings

New Yor
k Magazine

Episcopal Life Online

Blog From the Windowsill

Books by Night

Short News - Germany


Showbiz Spy - UK

Literary Safari

Liz in Ink

Fuse #8


Lessons From the Tortise

Kelley Fineman

Left Coast Mama

LizB at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy





Washington Post

A Wrung Sponge

If I missed anyone and I'm sure I missed tons, please add them to the comments section and I'll try to get them all linked at some point.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Poetry Friday

For this week's Poetry Friday I offer an old and dear favorite, The Lady of Shallot. I've always loved this poem and was thrilled when I read Lisa Ann Sandell's story version of this Arthurian lady in her book Song of the Sparrow.

The Round-up is here.

The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred Tennyson, Lord Tennyson
August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892


ON either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;

And thro' the field the road runs by

To many-tower'd Camelot;

And up and down the people go,

Gazing where the lilies blow

Round an island there below,

The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,

Little breezes dusk and shiver

Thro' the wave that runs for ever

By the island in the river

Flowing down to Camelot.

Four gray walls, and four gray towers,

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veil'd,

Slide the heavy barges trail'd

By slow horses; and unhail'd

The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd

Skimming down to Camelot:

But who hath seen her wave her hand?

Or at the casement seen her stand?

Or is she known in all the land,

The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early

In among the bearded barley,

Hear a song that echoes cheerly

From the river winding clearly,

Down to tower'd Camelot:

And by the moon the reaper weary,

Piling sheaves in uplands airy,

Listening, whispers ''Tis the fairy

Lady of Shalott.'


There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay.

She has heard a whisper say,

A curse is on her if she stay

To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be,

And so she weaveth steadily,

And little other care hath she,

The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro' a mirror clear

That hangs before her all the year,

Shadows of the world appear.

There she sees the highway near

Winding down to Camelot:

There the river eddy whirls,

And there the surly village-churls,

And the red cloaks of market girls,

Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,

An abbot on an ambling pad,

Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,

Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,

Goes by to tower'd Camelot;

And sometimes thro' the mirror blue

The knights come riding two and two:

She hath no loyal knight and true,

The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights

To weave the mirror's magic sights,

For often thro' the silent nights

A funeral, with plumes and lights,

And music, went to Camelot:

Or when the moon was overhead,

Came two young lovers lately wed;

'I am half sick of shadows,' said

The Lady of Shalott.


A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley-sheaves,

The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,

And flamed upon the brazen greaves

Of bold Sir Lancelot.

A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd

To a lady in his shield,

That sparkled on the yellow field,

Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,

Like to some branch of stars we see

Hung in the golden Galaxy.

The bridle bells rang merrily

As he rode down to Camelot:

And from his blazon'd baldric slung

A mighty silver bugle hung,

And as he rode his armour rung,

Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather

Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,

The helmet and the helmet-feather

Burn'd like one burning flame together,

As he rode down to Camelot.

As often thro' the purple night,

Below the starry clusters bright,

Some bearded meteor, trailing light,

Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;

On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;

From underneath his helmet flow'd

His coal-black curls as on he rode,

As he rode down to Camelot.

From the bank and from the river

He flash'd into the crystal mirror,

'Tirra lirra,' by the river

Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro' the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look'd down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack'd from side to side;

'The curse is come upon me!' cried

The Lady of Shalott.


In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale yellow woods were waning,

The broad stream in his banks complaining,

Heavily the low sky raining

Over tower'd Camelot;

Down she came and found a boat

Beneath a willow left afloat,

And round about the prow she wrote

The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse—

Like some bold seer in a trance,

Seeing all his own mischance—

With a glassy countenance

Did she look to Camelot.

And at the closing of the day

She loosed the chain, and down she lay;

The broad stream bore her far away,

The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white

That loosely flew to left and right—

The leaves upon her falling light—

Thro' the noises of the night

She floated down to Camelot:

And as the boat-head wound along

The willowy hills and fields among,

They heard her singing her last song,

The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,

Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

Till her blood was frozen slowly,

And her eyes were darken'd wholly,

Turn'd to tower'd Camelot;

For ere she reach'd upon the tide

The first house by the water-side,

Singing in her song she died,

The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,

By garden-wall and gallery,

A gleaming shape she floated by,

Dead-pale between the houses high,

Silent into Camelot.

Out upon the wharfs they came,

Knight and burgher, lord and dame,

And round the prow they read her name,

The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?

And in the lighted palace near

Died the sound of royal cheer;

And they cross'd themselves for fear,

All the knights at Camelot:

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, 'She has a lovely face;

God in His mercy lend her grace,

The Lady of Shalott.'