Friday, March 27, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month began in April 1996 and was established to encourage Americans in schools, businesses and homes to celebrate and recognize the importance of poetry in American culture.

There are many ways you can join in the celebration.

1. Reading poetry is one of the most obvious. The library has many books of poetry, both old and new for all ages, that you are encouraged to check out. Three that are highly recommended are:

100 Essential Modern Poems by Women
Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver
God’s Silence: Poems by Franz Wright

2. The Borzoi Press division of Random House has arranged for anyone who signs up to receive a Poem-A-Day in their e-mail during the month of April.

3. April 30th is Carry a Poem in Your Pocket Day. Find a poem that you like, make a copy of it and carry it in your pocket that Thursday. Share your poem with friends and family.

4. Make a comment for this blog and tell us about your favorite poem or poet.

5. Or – read the following poem by Lisa Starr, Rhode Island's Poet Laureate.

Sandpipers Again
I went back to the sandpipers today –
it’s been a while.

Six of them, or
was it twenty? Never matters;
somehow we all know when a meeting has been called,
somehow we all know
exactly when the surf
will start tossing back
its wild silver hair.

One time I was astonished
to find them waiting for me on the beach in Newport.

It was so quiet it was like rain
without the rain.

I wasn’t planning it
my car just brought me there,
a most uncommon thing – it’s not that kind of car –
but there we were, alone on a beach.

It almost made me giddy,
like today,
just now.

I’d forgotten how much
I need them.

Like me they were laughing and
sputtering about the beauty.

A few of them couldn’t help it
and just kept throwing their small bodies
again and again
into the wild, white water.

[Lisa Starr's poem was published in the Bryant Literary Review, 2005, and The Providence Journal, April 2005]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Magical Merlin and His King

The tales and legends of King Arthur and his court are a wonderful mixture of romance, magic and myth. If you have not yet met the “once and future” king, try these titles while you wait patiently for winter to melt away.

Go to the source by reading Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. First published in 1485, this series of tales was the first to chronicle the tales of Arthur, Guenever and the Knights of the Round Table.

T. H. White’s classic, The Once and Future King, is the book that inspired the Broadway musical, Camelot and the Disney cartoon classic, The Sword in the Stone. This however,is not a children’s book, and as the tale progresses the characters and the story itself become dark, tragic and more complex.

Mary Stewart wrote a quartet of books on Merlin, beginning with The Crystal Cave. This Arthurian series focuses on Merlin and what the wizard felt he had to do to protect Arthur and Brittain. (Other titles in the series are: The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment.)

For a totally different and feminist take on the Arthurian story try The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. In this Bradley presents the legend as a power struggle between Morgaine, a Druid priestess of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar, the Christian Queen of Camelot.

And for a look (via DVD) at Camelot and the Arthurian legends try the new (2004) film, King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, followed by a video tour of King Arthur’s Britain. Meg
[The idea for this post came from an article in Library Journal by Neal Wyatt.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday Book Group Takes on Mythology

The Tuesday Book Group met this week to discuss Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, the second half of a classic/contemporary pairing that began with the ancient Greek epic, The Odyssey.

At just under 200 sparsely-printed pages, The Penelopiad is a walk in the park compared to the other tomes we’ve been reading (like The Odyssey and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle). We agreed that Atwood’s retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view makes for light, fun reading. We found that, while this book may not change your life, it will make you think about how some stories get repeated and others suppressed, it will show you that marriage in mythic times could be just as fraught as it is today, it will dance around the ambiguity of human motivations, and it will make hysterical fun of Helen (of Troy) and her pathetic vanity

The group also touched on such touchy issues as teenage violence and violence against women. If you recall, one of the most gruesome climactic events in the Odyssey is the murder of twelve of Penelope’s maids by Telemachus (Odysseus and Penelope’s teenaged son). We never felt that Atwood settled this unsettling issue, but she does give the maids a voice in the book: they appear in between chapters and perform burlesque song and dance numbers, raging against their plight and powerlessness.

The Penelopiad also had us thinking about contemporary culture quite a bit, and there were several interesting segues into topics such as reality TV, morality, and the history of gender roles. You never know where you’ll end up when you talk with good people about good books.

The Tuesday Book Group reads classic books alongside modern works inspired by them. Kindred readers are welcome to join us the second Tuesday of the month at 1:00pm. On April 14th, we'll tackle Dostoevsky’s classic Crime and Punishment. All are welcome to join. Contact the Reference Desk at for more information. LO

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Scene is Boston

Although you might not think it, Boston (Mass.) is a popular location for crime fiction. Maybe it’s the curious mixture of a city steeped in both colonial and ethnic history and the modern building explosion currently going on, that includes such engineering marvels (or misadventures, depending on your point of view) as the “Big Dig” and the TD BankNorth Garden, new home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins.

Whatever it is, there is some really good private eye and detective fiction set in that city of contrasts. Here are some of the best.

Jessica Conant-Park (author of the Cat Lover’s and Dog Lover’s mystery series) and her daughter, Susan Conant, have combined to create the Gourmet Girl, aka Chloe Carter, a boy-crazy 20 year old gourmand who lives in Brighton (a sub-division of Boston). This series contains four titles so far,beginning with Steamed (2006), and has been referred to as a “scrumptious cozy.”

Linda Barnes writes about Carlotta Carlyle – a former Boston cop who works part-time as an investigator and part-time as a Boston cabbie. The flavor of Carlyle’s Boston is very different from the coziness of the Gourmet Girl’s locale. Carlyle and Barnes have been around for a while and seen and done a lot. Barnes began her series with Trouble of Fools (1999) and is up to entry number 12, Lie Down with the Devil (2008).

The master of Boston private investigators is Robert B. Parker. His series starring Spenser was, for a while, a television show starring Robert Urich (as Spenser), Avery Brooks – of Star Trek fame – (as Hawk) and Barbara Stock (as Susan Silverman). The books (as is sometimes the case) are much better than the TV series and Parker, who began with The Godulf Manuscript in 1973, is still writing them. He has even added several more series and characters to his repertoire. I still like the original series best and truly enjoy a good visit with Spenser, Hawk and Susan. My favorite titles from this series are Mortal Stakes (about the Red Sox) and A Catskill Eagle.

Other folks who write detective or thriller fiction with a Boston background are: Robin Cook who writes medical mysteries with a strong thriller element and Tess Gerritsen, whose character, Jane Rizzoli is a Boston-based police detective.

Finally, Dennis LeHane (author of Mystic River) began his writing career with a duo of Boston-based private eyes: Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The first of this series is entitled A Drink Before the War. These mysteries are carefully crafted and excellent - but not for the faint of heart. Meg

Monday, March 2, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L’Engle is probably known best for her popular children’s chapter book, A Wrinkle in Time, (although I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult). L’Engle, however, wrote many more titles – fiction, for children, young adults and adults; poetry; and religious essays and stories. My favorite adult fiction title is The Severed Wasp, written in 1983. The Severed Wasp is the story of Katherine Forester Vigneras, a retired concert pianist who goes to live in New York City near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

She becomes involved in the community of ministers, lay people and their families that work for and around the Cathedral – and she also becomes involved in a mystery that has one young girl deathly afraid. As Katherine gradually begins to unravel the mystery at St. John’s, we are allowed to delve into the mystery surrounding her own life and the joy and tragedy that has been a part of it.

A Severed Wasp is a fascinating portrait of a successful older woman, mixed with a measure or two of classical music, an atmosphere of spiritual inscrutability, and a mood of mystery that is both open and secretive. I highly recommend it. Meg

Other recommended books by Madeleine L’Engle
The Crosswicks Trilogy
A Circle of Quiet
The Summer of the Great Grandmother
The Irrational Season

The Wrinkle in Time Series
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Small Rain, L’Engle’s earliest published work, is the first book about Katherine Forrester’s younger years. Meg


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