¡Word Up! Hope for Youth Poetry

editor: Zoe Anglesey
El Centro de la Raza, 1992
grades 4-up 
Mexican American

“I think that everyone, being human, is a poet, like all birds sing,” says Father Ernesto Cardinal, the great Nicaraguan poet and teacher and the inspiration for this book. The children of the Hope for Youth Poetry Workshop demonstrate that poetry is also a way of building community and generating power.

Here, as Anglesey says in her introduction, “are poems about family members, dangers children face, the things children enjoy in particular, and about those abstractions that all poets attempt to write about, like love, terms of justice and death.” Encouraged to write about anything they wanted in any vernacular that was their own without someone chastising them for “bad grammar,” youngsters saw “their poems fly from notebooks to the copy machine and word processor.” In English, Spanish, and “Spanglish”—that collage of two street-bonded vocabularies—the children express their humor and intelligence, their fears and concerns, what is important to them, and their need for society to change.

BILINGUAL IN A CARDBOARD BOX/ Javier Piña

Soy Mexicano/ I’m an American
Puedo cantar canciones del corazón/ I am mute
Puedo ver los colores de la puesta del sol/ I am blind
Puedo escuchar las voces de los pajaritos cantando/ I am deaf
Soy indígena bailando al cielo que llora/ I’m forever seated in a chair with wheels
Todos me respetan/ I’m labeled by pointing fingers
Tengo mucho dinero/ I live in a cardboard box
Estoy riéndome con el mundo alegre/ I am sad
Salgo con mis amigos/ I am alone
Estoy soñando/ and I don’t want to wake up!

!Word Up! Is for all of us, and our children.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 4/19/13)

This review  first appeared in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children, edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin (AltaMira Press, 2005). We thank the publisher for permission.

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