DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Poetry

Mar 23 2011

A poem for your pocket

by Dea Anne M

April 1st will mark the beginning of National Poetry Month. Past celebrations have included The Free Verse Project and the National Poetry Map (check out Georgia!). The celebration for 2011 will include a national Poem In Your Pocket day.  The idea is that on April 14th, you will carry a poem that you love with you all day to share with friends, co-workers, and others.

What are your favorite poems. Who is your favorite poet? I’ve known people who have told me that they don’t read poetry because they think it’s “too serious,” but poetry can actually be quite entertaining. Not only that, poetry is written on a variety of unusual topics and themes.

Do you like oysters? Check out “Oysters” by Seamus Haney in Selected Poems, 1966-1987. Of course, you won’t soon forget about the giddy young oysters in “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll which is included in The Annotated Alice: Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Are you a horse lover? Don’t miss “The Name of Horses” by Donald Hall included in Old and New Poems, or any of the poems about horses included in Herds of Thunder, Manes of Gold compiled by Bruce Coville.

Do you experience the occasional sleepless night? Next time that happens, try reading “Insomnia” by Elizabeth Bishop which is included in The Complete Poems, 1927-1979. For the younger set (and those of us who think that way) , don’t miss “I’m Tortured by Insomnia” which is part of Jack Prelutsky’s fun collection It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles.

And finally there are poems about…pockets! These include “Pockets” by Howard Nemerov included in The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov and “A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes” by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon included in her collection by that same title.

So do something different, and fun, next month and pick up some poetry at DCPL!

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May 3 2010

Read, Georgia, Read!

by Patricia D

We are beyond lucky in DeKalb County to be the host site for the Georgia Center for the Book.  The GCB’s mission is to provide support to libraries, literary programs and, whaddaya know, literature.  They do it in fine style and though the mission is to serve the entire state many of the programs are based in the metro area.  Over the years I have attended many GCB events at the Decatur Library and the Carter Center.  I missed Christopher Moore discussing Fool and Paula Deen sharing her story in Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ because I had to work, but I also had the great pleasure of meeting  Annette Gordon Reed when she was here discussing her amazing, Pulitzer prize winning  The Hemingses of Monticello.  Many of the GCB Author Talks are also available on the website as downloadable podcasts.  As a children’s librarian I have a tough time keeping up with adult literature and have to work hard to find things I might like.  Thanks to GCB programs I have read many books I would otherwise have skipped (Finn by Jon Clinch and Martha Washington: An America Life by Patricia Brady) which is why I’m so pleased to see the “25 Books All Georgian’s Should Read” list.  I probably won’t  get to read everything on it in 2010 but I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into this list.  You should try it out too.  See the completed list here.

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Apr 30 2010

Book Spine Poetry

by Jesse M

April is National Poetry Month, and so for today’s post, I thought it would be appropriate to feature something poetry related: book spine poetry! I first encountered this idea a couple of years ago on the website of artist Nina Katchadourian, who had dubbed her titular wordplay The Sorted Books Project. The idea was the same though. Take a group of books, pull out select titles and place them in sequence so that a sentence or phrase is formed when the titles are read from top to bottom (or from left to right, if left standing vertically on a bookshelf). And voila! You’re a poet! The result range from silly to seemingly profound, but the process is always entertaining.

Many individuals, institutions, and websites have tried their hands at producing book spine poetry this year. One of the largest collections can be found at the website 100scopenotes.

Another good place to view book spine poetry is the image hosting/sharing website Flickr.  Several libraries (such as Somers Library and Thomas Memorial Library) have set up Flickr accounts where you can view their submissions.  Still want more?  A  simple search for “book spine poetry” reveals the creative efforts of a multitude of individual poets.

Try crafting your own!

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Dec 30 2009

Auld Lang Syne

by Jnai W

My favorite thing about the holiday season is the beautiful seasonal songs: sacred hymns, traditional carols and even holiday pop classics. Now that Christmas time has passed most radio stations will be returning to their regular tunes. But there is one more holiday classic I look forward to hearing: the New Year’s standard “Auld Lang Syne”.

This song is widely regarded as the work of Scottish poet Robert Burns, even though several of the lyrics can also be attributed to other writers of similarly-titled works (such as “Old Long Syne”, a 1711 ballad by James Watson). Legend has it that Burns wrote a letter to a friend in which he spoke lovingly of the Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” and of an old folk song that “thrilled through [his]soul”. It is in this letter that he compiled and composed what would live on to become an enduring and well-loved holiday classic.

One of the things that fascinates me most about “Auld Lang Syne” is that, even though it has become a traditional New Year’s song throughout the world, it is still a widely misunderstood tune. There seems to be something missing in translation as holiday revelers warble the title, which roughly translates to “old long since” (and I mean that’s a rough, literal translation…or so I hear) and stumble over the lyrics.  But a simple internet search has been more than enough to uncover many wonderful things about “Auld Lang Syne” that I never knew, including full Scottish lyrics, a few nice translations of the song, and this gorgeous rendition of the song as performed by Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis.

As the song says, upon further reflection, should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, perhaps we should take the time to kindly and fondly remember them. Over a pint perhaps at the pub? That’s neither here nor there, really. But this song does blossom into a moving, loving and heartfelt ballad…and strikes me as the perfect way to usher in a new year.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet for auld lang syne…

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Dec 28 2009

Poem for a Winter’s Day

by Patricia D

I have a dear friend who loves poetry and can quote huge chunks of it anytime you ask.  I envy her that because most of the time poetry doesn’t work for me.  I had a brief flirtation with John Donne in college but that light burned bright and then died quietly and though I’ve tried, I  haven’t been able to work up the will to take another ride on the Poetry Appreciation Train.  I want to ride but I  just don’t get most poetry.  I’ve often wondered if this disability is tied up with my inability to appreciate jazz or the Three Stooges–it’s something that works for some but not all.  I had grown accustomed to thinking that poetry, much like pro football, was never going to be for me.   However, I stumbled across a collection of sijo poems in the children’s collection a while back and finally found a crack in my poetry defenses.  My favorite from the book is called Wish and it so perfectly conveys how poetry should work on a person’s heart  that it almost makes me weep (almost.)  Thanks to this Korean form of poetry, which looks so innocent and non-threatening,  I’ve been tempted into the poetry section–that’s 811 to the Dewey Decimal users among us.  It’s still rocky going but I’ve now realized that  Edna St. Vincent Millay is not as twee and ladylike as I thought and that has been a marvelous discovery for me.  Maybe I’ll give John Donne a call.

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Sep 23 2009

Autumn, The Mosaic of All Seasons

by Jnai W

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting
and autumn a mosaic of them all.”
Stanley Horowitz


Yesterday was the first official day of Autumn and I couldn’t be happier.  Even though we Georgians probably have at least a month to go before the advent of cooler, crisper weather or the rich, stunning appearance of fall foliage, I’m anxiously anticipating the coming months.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. September meant going back to school and getting back into the hustle-and-bustle of school life (this zeal for academics usually wore off in about a month). October has always been great because of chillier weather and Halloween candy. And November is the best time of the season as the fall colors are at their most potent and Thanksgiving is in the air.

I have a lot that I’d love to say about the way that autumn makes me feel but so many great writers, poets and thinkers have already spoken so eloquently about the season. So I’ve included some more really amazing quotes about fall. Please don’t be shy about sharing your own thoughts on the glories (or the agonies, even) of autumn:

“Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.  What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?
Hal Borland

“No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.”
John Donne

“Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for
biting winds than genial breezes.  Autumn is the mellower season,
and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
Samuel Butler

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Apr 2 2009

Poetry Myth Buster

by Jimmy L

npm_poster_2009_550April is the month of fools and poetry.  Now, most people would rather be a fool than read poetry, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be afraid!  You may be one of the many poor souls who were inundated at a young age by English teachers who made you analyze the MEANING of a poem (as if there were just one single meaning).  No wonder it is sometimes so hard to just enjoy poetry for what it is, and what it means to you.

So this month I’m going to try to shed some light on why I like poetry so much by busting open a few of the myths surrounding it.

MYTH #1: There is one correct meaning for every poem.

I’ll admit: it is true that most poems mean something, otherwise why bother to read it, right?  But is there ONE correct interpretation that acts as a sort of “answer” to a poem?  Many poems have a lot of built in ambiguity, in order to make many meanings possible.  Could it mean this?  Could it mean that?  Maybe it can mean both or all of the above at the same time!  It is fun to think about these multiple meanings and sometimes one interpretation affects another interpretation in interesting ways.

In fact, there are many poets who intentionally play with meaning and nonsense.  James Tate’s Selected Poems is a good place to start for the adventurous among you who like to straddle the line between sense and nonsense.  In addition his poems are often lighthearted, but with a sometimes dark center.  Charles Simic is also a good poet of the surreal.  His poems are odd, strange, and fun, and make just enough sense to keep you reading.

Of course, you may also enjoy a poem for its sound.  There are two main aspects of poetry: sound and sense.  So the sound of a poem is just as important as what it means (not to imply that they are in competition; in fact they usually complement each other).  All poets concern themselves with sound, but Dylan Thomas is a good place to start.  Try reading his poems aloud without thinking about what they mean.  You’d be surprised that you’ll understand the meaning without even trying—the general jist of it will come through the  sounds!  There are also many spoken word and slam poets who put an extra emphasis on the performance and sound aspect.  Check out this DVD if this is what interests you.

Lastly, just as important as the meaning of a poem is the way a poem looks on the page.  e.e. cummings famously played with typography and layout of his poems to great effect.  Check out some of his fun and still innovative poems.

A COROLLARY: Poems can make perfect sense!  Just because some poems don’t have to make complete sense doesn’t mean other poems can’t be very straight forward in their sense-making.  There are many poets who write in a more direct style, but a good place to start is William Carlos Williams.  Many people try to eke out a meaning from his poems, but sometimes a wheelbarrow is just a wheelbarrow.  Perhaps Williams just wanted to paint an image, so that the reader can be as absorbed in this rain-soaked scene as he is.

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Nov 25 2008

And, the winner is…

by Heather S

The 2008 National Book Award Winners are:

Fiction: Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
Nonfiction: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed
Young People’s Literature: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Poetry: Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems by Mark Doty

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Sep 24 2008

Children and Poetry

by Ginny C

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of including nursery rhymes when reading to young children.  Along those same lines, introducing children to poetry at a young age can help foster a life-long love, not only of poetry, but also of words and reading.  Incorporating poetry into your regular reading habits isn’t as daunting as it may sound.  Many picture books are already written in rhyming verse, so chances are, your child already has some experience with it.  Quite a few well-known poems have even been adapted into a picture book format.  The Owl and the Pussycat and Casey at the Bat are two famous ones.  Other popular adaptations include The Spider and the Fly, Wynken, Blynken and Nod and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

If you’re still unsure where to start, Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are perennial favorites.  They’re smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and usually pretty short.  Other well known authors and poets have books that have been written specifically for, or adapted for, children, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou.

Reading poetry should be fun and enjoyable for both you and your child.  Browse the poetry section of your library for more books.  Remember, the goal isn’t to analyze it.  Listen to and enjoy the words and imagery.  Then, if you or child wants to, discuss it as you would any story you’ve just read.

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Love the Library’s eAudiobook service but have an iPod?  Unfortunately, there are currently no vendors offering downloadable audiobooks to libraries using Apple’s digital rights management format, but there are a few free options available for you on the Internet.

LibriVox is a volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project.  LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then “release” the audio files back onto the net.

Classic Poetry Aloud provides podcasts of, well, classic poetry.  If it’s Shakespeare, Pope, Keats, and Shelley you’re looking for, this is the place.

Podiobooks Listeners to Podiobooks.com can choose to receive the episodes of their books via an RSS feed or by listening to episodes by directly downloading episodes from the site.  The site is free, but donations are accepted to compensate authors, who permit their works to be available on the site.

openculture is a site that collects podcasts, videos, and online courses that are freely available on the web, and claims to “sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place.”  The link provided here takes you directly to their audiobook collection.

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