April 28, 2017


Poetry is like a song, like a psalm, like a prayer. Poetry is different things to many people, and April being Poetry Month,
The Latina Book Club has been celebrating and spotlighting poets all month long.

We are happy to end the month with a brilliant and stupendous poetry collection by the legendary 
Margarita Engle, poet, writer and multiple Pura Belpre award winner. 

Margarita Engle’s collection is rightly named, BRAVO! POEMS ABOUT AMAZING HISPANICS.  The applause for this collection is endless. She honors the best and the brightest Latino stars. The subjects come from different lands, different professions, but all their poems share a richness that makes us proud to be Latino too.  And many thanks to artist Rafael Lopez who illustrated the books. His drawings are a great compliment to Engle’s poems.

 SUMMARY:  Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection, BRAVO!, come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today. Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, and Tomás Rivera.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse books, including the Newbery Honor Book The Surrender Tree, the PEN USA Award winner The Lightning Dreamer, and the Walter Dean Myers Honor Enchanted Air. Her books have also received multiple Pura Belpré and Américas Awards as well as a Jane Addams Award, an International Reading Association Award, and many others. Books for younger children include Mountain Dog, Summer Birds, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award winner Drum Dream GirlLearn more about Engle at www.margaritaengle.com.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:  The work of Rafael López is a fusion of strong graphic style and magical symbolism. Growing up in Mexico City, he was immersed in the rich cultural heritage and native color of street life. He has illustrated many award-winning books, including Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora; Tito Puente Mambo King, by Monica Brown; and The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos. In 2012 he was selected by the Library of Congress to create the artwork for the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.



April 26, 2017


Poetry is like a song, like a psalm, like a prayer. Poetry is different things to many people, and April being Poetry Month,
The Latina Book Club is celebrating by featuring Latino poets all month long.

Welcome Dr. Maria Alma González Pérez, whose new collection of Spanish poetry evokes feelings of love, community and survival.

Vivamos la realidad
de nuestra sangre
que nos da nuestra
---Dr. Maria Alma González Pérez

Dr. Maria Alma González Pérez has written a beautiful collection of poems in Spanish entitled CANTOS DEL ALMA Y DEL CORAZON.  It’s an emotional assortment of 50 poems to celebrate love, love of her parents, love of family, and love of her culture.  We especially loved her poem, Vivamos La Realidad, which translates roughly into Living the Truth. In it she proclaims that it is the blood of the people that carries the truth of their race and the truth of their identity.   

Another striking aspect of González Pérez’ book is that each poem is paired with a stunning photograph that compliments the poem. The words alone are rich, emotional and memorable, but alongside the photo the reader gets an immediate visual that strikes at the heart faster. If we could, we would rip out each page and frame them to display around the house.  Bravo, Dr. González Pérez, Bravo.

SUMMARY:  CANTOS DEL ALMA Y DEL CORAZON expresses feelings and emotions from personal experience. This collection of 50 poems written in Spanish provides the reader with a sensitive, yet realistic perspective of love, the family, and culture among other topics. Each poem is complemented by a photograph that serves as a scenic backdrop to enhance its meaning. Includes an instructional guide of classroom activities for the teaching and discussion of poetry in the classroom.

CANTOS DEL ALMA Y DEL CORAZON expresa sentimientos y emociones brotadas de la experiencia del diario vivir.  Esta colección de 50 poemas provee al lector con una sensible perspectiva del amor, la familia, y la cultura entre otros temas.  Cada poema es complementado por una fotografía que sirve como fondo pintoresco para encarecer su significado. Finalmente, un apéndice de actividades sirve como material suplementario para la instrucción y discusión de la poesía en el aula bilingüe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Dr. González Pérez is a poet and writer.  She is also a former bilingual education professor and director for the University of Texas Pan American Starr County campus. She writes Spanish poetry, children’s bilingual and local South Texas history books, as well as teacher training materials. She lives in Zapata, TX, a community along the Rio Grande border area. Learn more about her at www.delalmapublications.com.



April 25, 2017


Poetry is like a song, like a psalm, like a prayer. Poetry is different things to many people, and April being Poetry Month,
The Latina Book Club is celebrating by featuring Latino poets all week long.

We welcome to our site poet Ariel Francisco, whom we thank for sharing his poem with us.


Locks cling to the bridge’s facade like piercings,
inscribed with names in marker or lipstick.
Their keys sunken to the bottom of the East River,
combinations lost in the brackish waters of memory.
A man in a black trench coat sells the locks
to passing couples, encourages them to latch
their hearts onto the bridge that’s already heavy
with rust.  Way out on the jilted water:
the silhouette of a dream-sized woman standing
on a distant corner looks so familiar from this far away–
arm raised to hail a cab that will never come.
           --Ariel Francisco
             Originally published in Tupelo Quarterly
             **Permission granted to reprint. All rights reside with the author.**

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Ariel Francisco is the author of ALL MY HEROES ARE BROKE (C&R Press, 2017) and BEFORE SNOWFALL, AFTER RAIN (Glass Poetry Press, 2016). Born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents, he was raised in Miami and completed his MFA at Florida International University. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2016, Gulf Coast, Poets.org, Prelude, Washington Square, and elsewhere. He lives in South Florida (for now).



April 20, 2017


Poetry is like a song, like a psalm, like a prayer. Poetry is different things to many people, and April being Poetry Month,
The Latina Book Club is celebrating by featuring Latino poets all week long.

We welcome to our site former Poet Laureate Thelma T. Reyna
who has graciously shared with us an autobiographical poem, a glimpse from her childhood.


Our ankles were always gray, caliche
dust swirling like guardian angels around twiggy brown
legs leaping potholes, tripping on dirt clods. Nine
children oblivious to what it meant to be growing up dusty.

In winter, rivers of mud separated us from Licha, Juan,
Susie. Dripping mesquite trees beckoned. Black puddles
dotted our ‘hoodscape far as child eyes could see, little
lakes navigated house to house as we grew up dusty.

When morning light tickled our bedfaces, dervishes danced
through cracks and chinks in sills and walls and floors and doors.
Grandma’s rag couldn’t stem the tide of constant coats
of dust as we grew up in our small Texas town.

On the other end were asphalt roads, mown lawns and
children with patent leather shoes that stayed black.
At school, only chalkboard dust bound them and us as
we grew up dusty in our small Texas town.
----by Thelma T. Reyna

Printed with permission. © Thelma T. Reyna. All rights reserved by author.


Q:  You are a published poet and a former Poet Laureate. What does poetry mean to you and are you happy that there is a yearly designated poetry month?
THELMA:  First, yes, I’m delighted that a poetry month has been designated annually. Poets never receive the recognition and appreciation that our society owes them. Throughout our world’s history, poets have been prominent in molding and defining civilizations across the globe, going back to before books were available. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, Japanese, early Europeans--we still read their poetry! Here at home, our Native Americans and early European colonials left us their poetic legacies as well. Poets cultivate the best in human beings: our sensitivity, spirituality, love of nature, our ability to reflect on life and people, our musicality, love of language and ideas. Poets generally have keen insights, observational powers, and the freedom to express their ideas creatively. They do all this in compact, economic ways. Taken together, all this translates to, “Poets communicate in modes and at levels that most other communication does not accomplish.” All this is what poetry represents to me, and that’s why I consider poetry vital to civilization.

Q: How do you come by your love of poetry? When did you start writing poems? Are you working on a new collection?
THELMA: I was an introverted adolescent, all the way through college, actually. I loved my English classes, the books we read, my fantastic teachers, going to the library on my own (since we had no books at home). All the elements were right for writing poetry, which I began in high school. I’m working on a new collection of poems now--my seventh book, though it will be my second full-length collection of my own work. I’d like to publish it later this year, or early next year.

Q: Who are your favorite poets--Latino and non-Latino? Old and contemporary?
THELMA:  I was a high school English teacher for 16 years, so I have many favorite poets of all cultures and eras from my teaching period. Some are Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and of course William Shakespeare. Then, as an occasional book reviewer of Latinos’ books and a supporter of Latino literature, I bonded with the work of Luis J. Valdez, Pat Mora, Melinda Palacios, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Sandra Cisneros, Richard Blanco, and Blas Falconer, among many others.

Finally, in my work as an anthology editor, I’ve especially enjoyed the poetry of my fellow Southern California writers, such as Karineh Mahdessian, Luivette Resto, Lois P. Jones, Yago S. Cura, Mark A. Fisher, J.K. Won, and Beverly M. Collins, among many poets whom I deeply admire and respect. The depth and breadth of talent in my immediate poetry community (Pasadena, Altadena, and the greater Los Angeles area) is astounding! Readers can see this varied talent in our Altadena Poetry Review Anthology (2015, 2016, and 2017).

Q: You were the editor of the Altadena Poetry Review Anthology in 2015 and 2016, when it won two national book awards. How do you pick a wining poem? Is it structure? Type? Emotional depth?
THELMA:  It’s more of a holistic assessment. Everything you mention can be involved, but it’s how the various elements of poetry are combined: imagery (word pictures), poetic techniques (alliteration, metaphor, irony, etc.), “voice” (persona, perspective, authenticity), for example. Funny, but things that others often connect with poetry--such as rhyme or pattern on the page--are not the dominant criteria. All “types” of poems can be “winning poems.” It comes down to uniqueness of expression in clearly conveying the sentiment or idea aimed at.

Q: What advice would you give new poets?
THELMA:  Don’t throw away your poems. Keep all your poetry in a binder, box, somewhere in an organized, accessible place, and note the date you wrote each poem on the page. The poems that may not seem good enough for publication at this point might be ready to “see the light of day” in another year down the road, with revising or polishing. You never know. This has happened to me and to many published poets I know. I wrote some of my own favorite poems 30 years ago, but they weren’t ready for publication until the recent past. Never give up on what you wrote if you consider the topic or feeling worthy enough for future reconsideration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   THELMA T. REYNA’S books have collectively won 8 national literary awards. She has written 4 books: a short story collection, 2 poetry chapbooks, and a full-length poetry collection, Rising, Falling, All of Us. As Poet Laureate in Altadena, 2014-2016, she edited the Altadena Poetry Review Anthology in 2015 and 2016, with the latter book winning two national book awards. Thelma’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in literary journals, anthologies, textbooks, and regional media for over 25 years.                                                              

Follow her on these websites & Social Media:



April 19, 2017


Poetry is like a song, like a psalm, like a prayer. Poetry is different things to many people, and April being Poetry Month,
The Latina Book Club is celebrating by featuring Latino poets all week long.

We welcome A.B. Lugo, poet and playwright, who makes a very personal and emotional debut with 
Spanish Coffee: Black, No Sugar from La Casita Grande.

La Casita Grande, May 2017

SUMMARY:  In 2015, A.B. Lugo, award winning actor and playwright, suffered through the deaths of his parents only months apart. To cope with his grief, he dedicated himself to writing a poem for each week of 2016. Little did he know he would be chronicling an historic year, one of social strife and tragedy that would culminate in the election of a man whose movement brings new awareness and fear to A.B. as an Afro-Puerto Rican. Spanish Coffee: Black, No Sugar, much like its title, is a bitter experience, as life can be, but also one that gives us the energy and power to make it through each day. More worn, for sure, but also stronger, and hopefully, wiser. A collection of poems influenced by history and inspired by the depths of the soul, Spanish Coffee: Black, No Sugar is as unforgettable as the year it chronicles. This book will be published in May 2017 by La Casita Grande. 

Follow A.B.’s Facebook author page here: https://www.facebook.com/ablugo.author/

"You could be found
in the bitterness of
Spanish coffee
black, no sugar
and in the anger
of sunburned skin
and chapped lips
"I see you in the ferocity
of an ambulance siren
trying to cut through
 rush hour traffic
and in the sense of wonder
of a toddler's eyes
when discovering something
 for the first time"
—an excerpt from "As You Like It"
From the poetry collection

"Él y ella
e hicieron el amor
Se gritaron
y burlaron con el otro
Lágrimas con risas
pasando décadas juntos
Según ellos
un matrimonio
no fue un capricho
sino una condena perpetua
"Así sería el amor verdadero
y perpetuo"

—un excerpto de "Amor perpetuo" de la colección de poesía