The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 1-43)- Margarita Engle

Entry Question

Considering that most enslaved people in the Americas were prohibited to read and write, do you think that literacy and poetry could be conceived as tools of resistance against slavery and colonialism? Why?

Cuba’s Historical Context after the Haitian Revolution 

Why after the Haitian revolution, Cuban elites expanded the slave trade and thus increased the enslaved population during the nineteenth century? (Minutes 0:00-6:30)

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

In this poetry collection prolific poet and writer of Cuban descent, Margarita Engle re-contextualizes the 19th-century Autobiography of a Slave by Juan Francisco Manzano, the only known testimony of slavery written in the Spanish-speaking Americas. Although Manzano’s book is written as a first-person account, Engle uses different perspectives and the voices of his family members, collaborators, and tormentors to retell his afflicted but genius life. Engle frames poetry as an art form that allows Manzano’s transformation from a docile child slave into a self-emancipated abolitionist.

Oral Presentation on the poetry book The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 1-43)


Walcott,Cineikwa Akayla

Group Discussions

.Interpret the following lines corresponding to Juan and analyze the role of Poetry in Juan Francisco Manzano’s life :

Poetry cools me, syllables calm me

I read the verses of others

the free men

and know

that I’m never alone

.Why Margarita Engle uses the animal figures of the poodle and the parrot to describe Juan Francisco Manzano’s position as an enslaved child with Doña Beatriz de Jústiz, la Marquesa?

.Do you think Doña Beatriz uses her “gift” of manumission to increase her social standing? Yes? No? Why?

.Describe the different notions of motherhood presented in this first section of the book.

.How the change of “owner” (enslaver) transforms Manzano’s poetic activity?