Monthly Archives: April 2015
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
One day several years ago, when my children were small, it occurred to me that perhaps I was letting them watch too much television. I had this particular epiphany after an episode of Teletubbies led me to idly speculate what sort of expensive pharmaceutical usage had led to the invention of the aforementioned pudgy nonsense-spouting creatures, and if the ensuing commercial success of the Teletubbies then enabled the program’s creators and producers to be able to afford more of whatever controlled substance had been instrumental in bringing Dipsy, Po, Laa Laa, and Tinky-Winky into existence. And then there’s Caillou. (Which translates to “small smooth pebble” in French. You’re welcome.) Do not get me started on that whiny, round-headed little twerp. * Even hearing his name all these years later makes me immediately start casting around for a sharp object. If an animated children’s television show inspires such sinister thoughts, it’s probably not a great idea to let your kid watch a ton of it.
I’ll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet—
And you know what I tell you is true.
He loved to watch his TV set
Almost as much as you.
I’ve always been a bookworm, and I read to my kids (okay, technically I suppose I was reading to my burgeoning midsection, but you know what I mean) even before they entered the world, but maybe it was time to step it up a notch from Eric Carle and Lucy Cousins to something a little loftier. Poetry? What a great idea!
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
So. Where to begin? At the library, of course, after a brief detour to the local ice cream parlor. (It’s merely a suggestion. If you prefer active culture frozen yogurt with organic mix-ins, go for it. Just don’t judge me.) Here we go–Shakespeare, Silverstein, Seuss. Nesbitt and Nash. Milne, Moore, Millay. Prelutsky and Poe. In case you’re wondering, and I really hope you aren’t, those beautiful, haunting verses created by Edgar Allan Poe may ignite a fire in your adult soul but are generally not appropriate for– or amusing to– your average preschooler. That old saw about knowing your audience definitely holds true when diving into the poetry pool with your child. In other words, if you decide to make a foray into poetry with your kiddo, don’t overthink it. Whether you choose The Giving Tree or Green Eggs and Ham, or something else entirely, enjoy the exploration of a new genre with your child. And . . .
When called by a panther/Don’t anther.
Suggested sources for children’s poetry, in no particular order:
- Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
- The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash
- Shout! Little Poems That Roar by Brod Bagert
- Here’s a Little Poem collected by Jane Yolen
- Treasury of Poetry selected by Alistair Hedley
*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.
By Brian W. Christman, professor and vice chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Medicine as well as chief of medical service at the Veteran Affairs’ Tennessee Valley Health Care System
It is always a bit of a challenge to explain why a physician, a person so intensely interested in the well-being of other people, would move away from the world and craft a few lines about a scene, an observation, or a thought. Sometimes it comes from a sense of obligation, the feeling that someone should think a bit longer about a solitary widow taking a shaving bag home, or a veteran patient smoking and telling stories at sunset, or the obvious but unspoken respect of a granddaughter for the recuperating patriarch. It seems to me that doctors are privileged to be with people during critical episodes in their lives and should not remain unmoved by events and interactions.
Occasionally there is just a snatch of nature, like the endlessly erasing shoreline at sunrise, begging in an undescribed language for translation. Often there is just a phrase, or part of a story, that resonates with a previous experience and sculpts a partial memory into something new.
But this explanation claims too much high ground. Sometimes I just like to noodle around with words and phrases about a topic until something comes together with its own rhythm, rhyme, and silence. It feels good to distill.
By Douglas Landon Hester, an anesthesiologist whose academic work focuses on airway management and resident education
I suspect I’m a poet and a physician for the same reasons. In both, small details define major issues. In both, precision matters. In both, the right word in the right way can help someone. In both, I believe I’m using talents as a steward. In both, there is a wonderful tension between science and art.
In both, relationships are ultimately the bottom line. Whether I am offering a specific drug or procedure or I am trying to connect with a reader I have never met, it is the common humanity between us that allows me to be a physician and a poet.
Medicine and poetry are, for me, about people. I’m blessed to do both.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Wade Watts is a normal teenager growing up in the Midwest on the future Earth in 2044, after the nation’s collapse. He is an orphan, living with his aunt, and attending high school online. He plugs into the OASIS, a virtual galaxy of planets and worlds. The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, died not long past and left no heirs. Instead, he set up an Easter Egg (a hidden message with clues) in the OASIS, with the instructions that the one who finds this egg is his heir. Heir to the OASIS, heir to his programming technology and heir to his millions.
Of course, this sets off a massive stampede of all ages to find the egg. There is even a nickname for these tireless searchers – egg hunters, which was shortened to “gunter” over time. All serious gunters knew that Halliday loved everything about the 1980s. They all studied as much as they could to learn everything about that particular decade—playing all the games, watching all the movies, reading all the books. Even though Wade is in high school, the OASIS is infinitely more fun and exciting that real life and he is a dedicated gunter.
When he is the first to find the first clue, the story really heats up. There are villains, allies, unexpected friends, danger, excitement, escapes and more to be found in the OASIS. This book was such a quick read. You will want to know what happens and keep reading. Wade (Parzival in the OASIS) leads the reader on a chase through the 1980s to solve three three-step riddles and save the OASIS from the evil Innovative Online Industries, which wants control of OASIS. If you like audio books, I suggest you download the e-audio book from READS; Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crutcher in Star Trek: Next Generation) reads the story and it is very well done.
The film rights to Ready Player One were purchased by Warner Brothers the same day the book was signed to be published. It will directed by Stephen Spielberg!
Ready Player One is a science fiction and dystopian novel by Ernest Cline. The book was published by Random House on August 16, 2011. The audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton. In 2012, the book received an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association and won the 2012 Prometheus Award.
Info above from wikipedia…
By Irene Planchard Mathieu, a writer and medical student at Vanderbilt University
Being a medical poet has often meant poetic isolation, immersed as I am in the intense educational world of medicine. I have felt very isolated jotting down lines between patients during busy days in the hospital or writing in my apartment after long nights of studying. Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend my first poetry workshop, a two-week immersive experience in Rhode Island. It was like opening the door to the little closet in which I’ve been writing alone and seeing that my small room is part of a sprawling, underground mansion where so many beautiful souls live, each one in a different room, who decorate the mansion’s rock walls with studded jewels and feathers and scraps of cloth.
On the last night of workshop a fellow poet asked me about the parallels between medicine and poetry. I began with the response that I have explicated elsewhere, but as I spoke I realized that my answer had evolved significantly as a result of the past two weeks. It isn’t just that poetry and medicine both offer a window into the totality of human experience, an intimacy with the human condition that few other professions offer.
Just as there are an “art and science” of medicine, there are both art and science in poetics. I often describe the role of science in medicine as analogous to the role of language in human communication. The point of learning another language usually isn’t simply for the love of language itself (although certainly that love is real and important and can be part of the motivation). Usually the primary purpose of mastering language is for communication, just as a deep understanding of science allows us to use medicine in the service of other people. The memorization of medications and amino acids does not a competent physician make. But this fund of knowledge is the language we use to navigate disease and to describe health and illness. Similarly, strong vocabulary, understanding of literary symbols and devices, and grammatical knowledge are the tools of meaning-making in poetics.
There are systematic ways to approach reading and writing poetry. I can dissect a poem in order to understand or edit it. There is basic anatomy that must be grasped before we can understand poetry or create great work. In poetry, anatomy consists of form, literary devices, symbols, and metaphors. These and other components provide the framework for the poem’s content. As physicians, we must understand the parts of our patients’ bodies – how individuals’ organs do or don’t function, what is “normal” for each person. But we also must remember that a person is not simply her or his body. A person has a body. Who a person is is analogous the content of the poem.
In medicine and poetry, in order to break the rules effectively we have to learn them thoroughly. Learning medicine in a classroom and practicing medicine in a clinic or hospital are two very different things. In the classroom we learn basic rules, mechanisms, and protocols. But rarely do patients fit our textbook definitions. And when they do, their diseases rarely occur in isolation. In clinical settings we have to account for patients’ other ailments and medications, medical history, age, sex, body weight/size, psychosocial conditions, values and goals, etc. Given this, what are the chances that we can do exactly the same thing the same way for every patient with ostensibly the “same” disease? Good physicians learn the textbook rules so they can understand when and how to adapt the knowledge to individual circumstances. Good poets learn the rules of poetry – about structure, form, use of literary devices, grammar – before they can break them to great effect.
Poetry and medicine are both a practice. They must be done consistently to be done well and require lifelong learning. In order to become a better poet you have to become a better reader. In order to improve as a doctor, you have to keep studying and learning about developments in the field. This is the duty of the committed poet or physician. It’s one aspect of professionalism. Professionalism also requires love of the field – a commitment to the evolution of scientific knowledge or of poetics. It requires being a team player – as a medical colleague, an editor, or a mentor to trainees in medicine and in poetry. It requires integrity; in both fields, this means checking our egos frequently and thoroughly.
Of course, poetry and medicine have many differences. I do believe poems have the power to heal and that poetry can be a matter of life and death; why else would so many brutal governing regimes around the world exile prominent poets time and again? Why else would words be censored in times of unrest? But poems are not people. Art imitates life, or vice versa, but art isn’t synonymous with life, and relating to patients is a completely different experience from relating to poems. While I have spent the last several years learning how to do the former, my poetry workshop was an intense course on how to do the latter. For a physician, patients must always come first. For me, poetry happens to come second. I believe the discipline, objective analysis, commitment, integrity, and heart required in each field can fortify my practice of the other.
On this Thursday of National Library Week, we take the day to reflect on Teen Literacy with the celebration of Teen Literature Day! What is that you ask? A day that we (librarians, libraries) dedicate to raising awareness about ALL the awesome teen literature is out there. This includes everything from the classics to the newly published books, from manga to fiction to non-fiction and event magazines. How are we celebrating here at WCPLtn you ask? We have NEW book displays up in our TEEN ROOM and in our display case in the rotunda on the 2nd floor; in addition, we’re hosting several programs this week including Lego Mindstorms, Game Day, Aveda Makeovers and Chess Club, all designed to bring teens together in celebration of what their library has to offer. And while they’re here, we hope that they will pick up a display book, or even find a hidden gem in the stacks! So get out there and celebrate all that Teen Literature has to offer! Join us for a program or just stop by and introduce yourself! Miss Erin and Mr Howard are here to chat, help and have fun with our awesome teens!
You’re a doctor. What is this poetry-writing thing? People wonder, though are usually too polite to put the question quite so baldly. Poetry? A pretty pointless way to spend one’s time, isn’t it? Shouldn’t you be out saving lives? Or something?
What good, really, is a song, or a painting? Why pick a blue-glazed platter when a cheap plastic one will do? All I can really say is that beauty, arranging things in an interesting way, creating useful or intriguing patterns, is simply something humans do, an essential part of being who we are.
As physicians, we are extraordinarily privileged, instantly taken into the lives of patients, their friends and families, often in very sad and tragic times. We see human bodies, inside and out, and hear how people make do, how they tell their stories, how they cope—or don’t—with loneliness or disability. We have our own stories to tell, inside the hospital and at home, living in this brilliant and fractious world.
So why do doctors do creative stuff? Because that’s what human beings do, and, lord knows, we have a lot to be creative about. So why poetry? Well, for no good reason. I just like words, the jangling sounds and rhythm of words, the meanings we stretch between them. I just do.
After Black History Month and Women’s History Month were created and were successful in gaining notice, the Academy of American Poets proposed the creation of National Poetry Month. They actually asked publishers, librarians, poets, teachers and all literary organizations to send representatives to meet and discuss instituting a poetry month.
And so, in 1995, the first National Poetry Month was established. In 2001, the Academy members voted on a poet for a postage stamp. Langston Hughes was the winner; he was the most popular with over 10,000 votes. Later, in 2006, the Academy started Poem in Your Pocket; they posted a new poem everyday on their website for a month. That was so successful; they now post a poem every day. They also will email a poem a day to those who sign up for it.
So why are people so passionate about poetry? Why did they want a whole month to talk about and promote poetry?
How else can you create an image in your mind with words? Image trying to write a paragraph about these poems and the pictures they convey. Sometimes poems say more in images that a paragraph can say.
The fog comes in on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
by Carl Sandburg
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
by William Carolos Williams
I broke your heart.
I tread on shards.
by Vera Pavlova
Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
First a little–
And then a lott’l.
by Richard Armour
the moon so pure
a wandering monk carries it
across the sand
by Basho (Japanese Haiku master)
Poems make you see pictures or feel something; they can also help you get your feelings out. Not all poems have to rhyme. They don’t have to go on and on. If you like structure, try a haiku. Haiku should be seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven and five. It is traditionally written about nature. Google haiku and get inspired.
This year, during April 2015, we hope you pay attention to what you see and feel and just perhaps you might try to find a poem that matches you r feelings. Or perhaps write one just for yourself. It’s easier than you think. Think about subscribing to poem-a-day from http://www.poets.org.
You could participate in Put a Poem in Your Pocket, on Thursday, April 30. All you need to do is find a poem you like and share it with others: you could add it to your email footer for one day or you could send to school with your child or teen. You could post it at work, on the bulletin board or on email or tweet about a favorite poet, or poem.
Just one day. Surely we can all handle that!
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
On the outside, it’s just an unassuming wooden box. But inside are vast chambers with amber walls, elegant royal quarters, secret passageways, and a charming royal nursery. Ruling over this magnificent structure is a beautiful queen, whose fragrance insures the love and blind devotion of her followers. It sounds like a traditional fairytale, but The Bees is set in a beehive, and the characters are the 10,000 honeybees who call it home.
The heroine of this mesmerizing debut novel by Laline Paull is Flora 717, a worker bee whose job in sanitation makes her the lowest of the low in a very rigid caste society. Flora 717 and her sisters in sanitation are literally the “untouchables,” and their main duty is disposing of the bodies of dead bees from the hive’s morgue. But there’s something different about Flora – she’s big, dark, and ugly. She’s also strong, intelligent, brave, resourceful, and fiercely devoted to her hive and queen. As others begin to recognize these surprising traits, Flora 717 is allowed to move up through the ranks of bee society. As she gets access to levels most maintenance workers never see, readers gain insight into the workings of different parts of the hive, including the nursery and even the queen’s private chambers. Flora finally wins a place with the foragers, whose vital mission is to gather nectar and pollen. Paull’s stunning descriptions of how the foragers experience the outside world and interact with flowers are sometimes delightful and sometimes frightening.
Life for bees isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright brutal. The world is a dangerous place full of “the Myriad” – all the creatures who threaten the hive. Humans are a major menace, with their encroaching developments and pesticides that kill plants, pests and bees alike. Even the benevolent beekeeper who loves his bees wreaks devastating and heartbreaking havoc when he collects honey. Mysterious diseases cause entire hives to collapse. Most horrifying of all is the way the bees treat each other in order to maintain their social system. As the hive faces one calamity after another, Flora’s drive to protect her home and sisters keeps her in peril.
Loyal Flora embodies the hive’s mantra – Accept, Obey, and Serve. But when she makes a shocking discovery about herself, she begins to question the hive’s strict laws and hierarchy. As a result, Flora takes action that could put her and the hive in grave danger.
The Bees succeeds on many levels. It’s a fascinating look at the “hive mentality” and the way a beehive functions. It’s a great tale of adventure and a suspenseful and sometimes terrifying story of the struggle to survive. There’s also comic relief provided by the foppish male drones. But most of all, it’s the exciting, inspiring and touching story of brave Flora 717. After reading The Bees I’ll never again look at a tiny honeybee or taste a teaspoon of honey without thinking of this endearing character and her sisters.