By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Most people encounter poems as a child first and poetry books for kids are fun and often silly. Kids love being read to and many poems are made to be read aloud. It’s when we grow up and forced to study specific poems and poetry that we lose interest. That’s why April has become “poetry month,” to encourage everyone to find their enjoyment of poetry again. And poetry really is for everyone. Or rather, there is at least one poem out there for each person that will touch them in some way. You just have to find it.
In order to help people find their enjoyment of poetry again, I hope to introduce you to a few good or unusual poetry books. Of course, if you just want to browse through our poetry books, in our Nonfiction section, which includes poetry, our library organize by the Dewey Decimal System, where American poetry is usually found in the 811s and British poetry is usually found in the 821s.
To refesh your memory about fun children’s poems, have a look at these:
- Falling up: poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein (J 811.6 SIL )
- A bad case of the giggles: kids’ favorite funny poems (J 811.08089282 BAD)
- Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
- A light in the attic by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
- I’ve lost my hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky (J 811.54 PRE)
- My dog ate my homework! a collection of funny poems (J 811.54 LAN)
- Stopping by woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost (J 811.52 FRO)
- Dirt on my shirt: selected poems (J E Fox)
- For laughing out loud: an anthology of poems to tickle your funny bone (J 808.81 FOR)
- Pizza, pigs, and poetry: how to write a poem (J 811.54 PRE)
Want to get back to poetry or rediscovery your love for it? Try these books:
- How to read a poem: and fall in love with poetry (808.1 HIR)
- How to haiku: a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms (808.1 ROS)
- Essential pleasures: a new anthology of poems to read aloud (808.81 ESS)
Most all adults have read Beowulf, one of the oldest extant English poems. Seamus Heaney won awards and rave reviews for his new translation of this epic poem (829.3 BEO). If Beowulf is too long, maybe you should try this book of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poems with a mouthful title, Ten Old English Poems Put into Modern English Alliterative Verse (821.1 MAL).
If you really want to get adventurous, try listening to the Iliad or The Odyssey. It’s easier to listen to, somehow. Perhaps because it was recited for centuries!? And maybe try The Aeneid for the same reason. Virgil wanted to write a great Roman epic and he definitely succeeded.
- The Iliad by Homer (883.01 HOM)
- The Odyssey by Homer (883 HOM)
- The Aeneid by Virgil (873.01 VIR)
For something completely different, try reading haiku, or maybe writing them. They are short and usually describe a nature scene. There is a definite pattern for haiku: the first line has five syllables, the second line had seven syllables and the third line has five syllables. The best things about haiku are they are short and they don’t have to rhyme!
- Haiku landscapes: in sun, wind, rain and snow (808.1 ADD)
- Haiku love (895.6104108 HAI)
- Haiku: an anthology of Japanese poems (895.6104108 HAI)
And for a different kind of haiku, try these:
- Haiku for the single girl (811.6 GRI)
- Redneck haiku: Bubba-sized with more than 150 new haiku! (811.6 WIT)
If you are feeling patriotic or want to celebrate patriotic holidays, this is the book for you:
- A patriot’s handbook : songs, poems, stories, and speeches celebrating the land we love / selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (810.8 KEN)
For poems written from another culture’s point of view, check out these books. Hah, check out these books!!! A little library humor for you.
- The Southern poetry anthology, Volume VI, Tennessee (811.50809768 SOU)
- Angles of ascent: a Norton anthology of contemporary African American poetry (811.09 ANG)
- Voices of the rainbow: contemporary poetry by Native Americans (811.54080897 VOI)
- S O S: poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka (811.54 BAR)
- Reflections: poems of dreams and betrayals by Adebayo Oyebade (811 OYE)
- No enemies, no hatred: selected essays and poems by Liu Xiaobo (895.1452 LIU)
For those trying to say something romantic, nothing is as good as a poem. Here are a few books to get inspiration from (or to copy and give your beloved, showing how much you care.)
- Rumi : the book of love : poems of ecstasy and longing, translations and commentary by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
- The essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
- Art & love: an illustrated anthology of love poetry (808.81 ART)
- Ten poems to open your heart by Roger Housden (811.6 HOU)
- Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (821.8 BRO)
- Twenty love poems and a song of despair by Pablo Neruda (861 NER)
- Love poems and sonnets of William Shakespeare (822.33 SHA)
- If there is something to desire: one hundred poems by Vera Pavlova; translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour (891.715 PAV)
For those who want to explore military themes, and get a real feeling of battle and the letdown of safety after, here are some from older wars and present conflicts.
- “Words for the hour”: a new anthology of American Civil War poetry (811.0080358 WOR)
- Some desperate glory: the First World War the poets knew by Max Egremont (821.912 EGR)
- Poets of World War I: Rupert Brooke & Siegfried Sassoon (YA 821 POE)
- Visions of war, dreams of peace: writings of women in the Vietnam War (811.54080358 VIS)
- Lines in long array: a Civil War commemoration: poems and photographs, past and present (811.008 LIN)
- Here, bullet by Brian Turner (811.6 TUR)
In case you think poetry is just a “girl thing”, here are a few books for men:
- Poems that make grown men cry: 100 men on the words that move them (821.008 POE)
- The Bar-D roundup a compilation of classic and contemporary poetry from CowboyPoetry.com (CD 811.54 08 BAR)
- Lessons from a desperado poet: how to find your way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game (811.54 BLA)
- Poetry for guys– who thought they hated poetry (811.008 POE)
A few offerings of humorous poems for grown-ups
- O, what a luxury: verses lyrical, vulgar, pathetic & profound by Garrison Keillor (811.6 KEI)
- Ogden Nash’s zoo (811.52 NAS)
- How did I get to be 40: & other atrocities and other poems by Judith Viorst (811.54 VIO)
- I’m too young to be seventy: and other delusions by Judith Viorst (811 VIO)
Other poetry books to consider that are recent and don’t really fit a category:
- It’s probably nothing, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love my implants by Micki Myers (811.6 MYE)
- Words for empty and words for full by Bob Hicok (811.54 HIC)
- Horoscopes for the dead: poems by Billy Collins (811.54 COL)
- Mr. Collins was a US Poet Laureate – a big deal!
- Firecracker red by Stellasue Lee (808.810082 LEE)
- Ms. Lee is a local poet
This book is in a category all by itself – and funny!
- I could pee on this: and other poems by cats by Francesco Marciuliano (811.6 MAR)
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89 last month. She was a literary giant and wrote one of the most famous and beloved novels of the twentieth century: To Kill a Mockingbird. It was only last year that her second book, a predecessor of To Kill a Mockingbird, was published. This book, Go Set a Watchman, was as divisive as her first book was beloved. Many thought that Go Set a Watchman was published without her say-so, and that Ms. Lee was taken advantage of. And the views on race relations and the language used shocked many readers.
The book is so beloved that, according to Variety, Aaron Sorkin will be writing the script for a new Broadway play, adapting To Kill a Mockingbird for the 2017-2018 season. There is precedent: In 1990, a stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel debuted in Monroeville, where it’s performed each May by local actors. The performances take an almost reverential approach, with audiences taking part in order to ritually enact scenes of segregation and justice denied.
So why do we love To Kill A Mockingbird so much? Firstly, it’s one of the few books that kids in high school actually like to read. Consider the reading lists, it is a relatively shorter and easier to read book. And even though it’s themes are overt and plentiful, it doesn’t feel like Harper Lee was beating you over the head with themes (I’m looking at you Mr Dickens and your paid by the word description of how the wine and the street represented the Revolution). Also, it is one of the few books that made the transition to film well. We all picture Gregory Peck when we think of Atticus Finch, and he was the epitome of the thoughtful, kind father we all wished we had. And we all related to Scout, who was an adventuresome tomboy learning about the world at his knee. And finally, as we all now know, the neighbor Dill was based off of a young Truman Capote.
During the years immediately following the novel’s publication, Harper Lee enjoyed the attention its popularity garnered her, granting interviews, visiting schools, and attending events honoring the book. In 1961, her book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The popularity snowballed and she began to turn down interviews sometime in 1964; she said the questions were monotonous. She also thought the attention was bordering on invasive and would take away the impact of the book. She was also quite shy all her life. Several times Lee said, once in a phone interview with Oprah, that the character in the book she most identified with is Boo Radley.
Only one year after its publication To Kill a Mockingbird had been translated into ten languages. Through the years, it has been translated into more than 40 languages. The novel has never been out of print in hardcover or paperback. A 1991 survey by the Book of the Month Club and the Library of Congress Center for the Book found that To Kill a Mockingbird was rated behind only the Bible in books that are “most often cited as making a difference”. It is considered by some to be the Great American Novel.
People celebrated across the United States in 2010 when To Kill a Mockingbird turned 50. A book was even published in honor of the 50th anniversary–Scout, Atticus, & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was full of famous readers writing to Harper Lee telling her how much they loved her book. The 2010 documentary film in the PBS American Masters series Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the background of the book and the film as well as their impact on readers and viewers.
And to have the second book Go Set a Watchman published in 2015 was a final gift to all of her fans. It was also a surprise, since so many readers had idolized Atticus, to see racist words pop up and find out that Calpurnia had retired. Many book groups are still discussing Lee’s new book. It is a nice legacy for her to leave us. Thank you Harper Lee for your magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird and your surprising postscript novel Go Set a Watchman. The world was better for your presence and your writing gifts.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Armada is Ernest Cline’s second book. Those of us who loved Ready Player One may be slightly disappointed. We were expecting lightning in a jar again.
Zack loves video games; he really got into them trying to get to know his deceased father. His mother told him about a box of his things in the attic and he had been exploring his father’s notebooks and games. So, when he saw a space ship that looked exactly like one from the video game Armada outside his school window, you would understand why he thought he was hallucinating. He wasn’t. A larger spaceship lands in the schoolyard, and his friend and boss calls him to get in. Just him. While on route to an underground bunker, he learns that his world and everyone else’s is about to drastically change. The aliens are real, Armada, the game that swept the world, was a training program to help fight off the aliens and Earth is under attack. Because he has a high score in Armada (in the top 10!), he is automatically an officer. He is assigned to the dark side of the Moon, to a forward base for the earth forces, to fight off the alien attacks. But is it possible all is not what it seems? Could his father possibly still be alive? Can Earth be saved??
This book will remind you of Ender’s Game, but not so serious and shocking, and the movie The Last Starfighter. While it does seem formulaic in parts, there is room for a sequel. Perhaps, like in other science fiction series, the first book sets up the story and the story continues where it left off.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Edgar Allan Poe finished his popular and unique poem The Raven in January 1845. Set on a cold December night, it makes perfect sense that it was released in January. It made him famous, but not what he also craved to be, rich.
Poe chose a raven as the central symbol in the story because he wanted a “non-reasoning” creature capable of speech. He decided on a raven, which he considered “equally capable of speech” as a parrot, because it matched the intended tone of the poem. Poe said the raven is meant to symbolize “Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance”. He was also inspired by Grip, the raven in Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty by Charles Dickens.
Poe really knows how to create a mood, to make his reader feel the shadows, the creepy noises in the room, the croak of the bird. This is a poem that pulls you into a moment. Like anything that scares you in a fun way, this is all about making you feel like you are experiencing the story while you read it. It’s spooky and a little spine-tingling, like a good horror movie. It’s fun to read – it’s meant to be read out loud. Try it and see how satisfying these lines are when they roll off the tongue. He’s trying to make his poem as musical, hypnotic, and captivating as possible. All of this complicated rhyme and rhythm aims at drawing you more completely into the world of the poem.
It’s interesting to think that people have been excited (and scared) by stories like this for hundreds of years. Folks in the 19th century read Poe for the same reasons we read Stephen King: that creepy thrill in reading about scary things happening to other people. When you read a story about someone slowly losing his mind, you might be horrified, but it’s also pretty hard to put it down.
And now a little about Poe the man:
He was born to traveling actors in Boston on January 19, 1809. By the age of three both of his parents had died, and he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his family in Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Allan tried to raise him in his own image as a businessman and a Virginia gentleman, but Poe had dreams of being a writer like his childhood hero, Lord Byron. By the age of thirteen, Poe had compiled enough poetry to publish a book.
In 1826 Poe attended the University of Virginia, where he excelled in his classes while accumulating considerable debt. To teach him frugality, he was sent to college with less than a third of the money he needed, so he soon took up gambling to raise money to pay his expenses. By the end of his first term Poe was so desperately poor that he burned his furniture to keep warm. Angry and humiliated by his poverty, he returned to Richmond to visit the home of his fiancée, only to discover she was engaged to another man. Heartbroken, he left Richmond, vowing to become a great poet and to find adventure. He published his first book Tamerlane by age eighteen and then he enlisted in the United States Army. Two years later he heard that Mrs. Allan, the only mother he had ever known, was dying of tuberculosis, who was hoping to see him before she died. By the time Poe returned to Richmond she had died and had already been buried. He and Allan briefly reconciled, and Allan helped him gain an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Before going to West Point, Poe published another volume of poetry. While there he found out that Allan had remarried without telling him or even inviting him to the ceremony. He threatened to get himself expelled from the academy. His wish came true; after only eight months at West Point he was thrown out, but he soon published another book.
Broke and alone, Poe turned to Baltimore, hoping to find relatives in the city to stay with. His aunt, Maria Clemm, became a new mother to him and welcomed him into her home. Her daughter Virginia first acted as a courier to carry letters to his lady loves but soon became the object of his desire. He started publishing his short stories; one won a contest sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. This allowed him to publish more stories and eventually gain an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He had found a home as a magazine writer. In 1836, when he was twenty-seven, he married Virginia (she was 13!). After six plus years of marriage, his beloved wife died of tuberculosis. (1847) No wonder he wrote of dark and depressing things. His life was depressing. And all his life he was a true, starving artist.
He kept trying to find a better paying job, moving to Philadelphia and to New York, but it wasn’t until he published The Raven that he began to be a household name. Unfortunately, he only lived another two years after his wife died, dying from mysterious causes (still unknown, even to this day) at the age of forty-nine in Baltimore. Oddly enough, after his death he finally became more famous because of author Rufus Griswold. Poe strongly criticized his works, so upon Poe’s death Griswold struck back, but it backfired. It only made Poe more popular.
- Obsessed with cats, Edgar often wrote with a cat on his shoulder.
- Edgar’s one and only novel Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was about a boat capsizing and the crew members drawing straws for who would be eaten; they drew straws and ate Richard Parker. The book bombed. Even though Poe said it was a true story, in his time most of the critics didn’t believe him. They were right to think so because at the time Poe’s book wasn’t true, but just 5 years later a similar wreck happened with the same lead character name Richard Parker, but no cannibalism. Then in 1884 there was another shipwreck where there was cannibalism, and the one who was eaten was indeed Richard Parker. (And don’t forget the Tiger in The Life of Pi was named Richard Parker. Concidence?)
- The Mystery Writers of America have named their award Edgar, after the great E. A. Poe.
- He introduced the first recorded literary detective in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The detective character would lead to become the prototypical detective we know today
- He was early adopter of the genre of Science Fiction. In 1844, he published “The Balloon” in Sun Newspaper. He described a lighter than air balloon that transversed the Atlantic Ocean in three days. The accounts were so believable that the newspaper had to retract the story two days later. However untrue the story was, the Sun newspaper made a lot of money off of newspapers, and they did not give Poe a cent. From then on, Poe hated the Sun newspaper.
- “The Raven” was a personal challenge Edgar imposed upon himself. He wanted to write 100 line poem, enough for one sitting. He ended up with 108 lines, which apparently was good enough for Poe.
- Edgar changed the writing and publishing world. Before Poe, writing was a noble profession where not many were able to make a living off of solely writing. Edgar insisted that writing would be his career, and he made major strides to find an audience for his entertaining articles, which would become the initial spark of the magazine industry. He even was given $1,500 the last week of his life to start a magazine. However, in his life he was plagued by international copycats where he had no protection that we have now with international copyrights. In many ways, he paved the way for writers to be compensated enough to have a career.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Kelsea had never known her mother Queen Elyssa, but she knew that when she turned 19 she’d have to leave the only home she’d ever known to become Queen of Tearling. The Queens Guards came for her stealthily, since several parties wanted her dead before she took the throne. Kelsea’s trip to New London was arduous but eye-opening, not to mention the guards who never looked at her. She kept a mental log of all she saw wrong on her trip to the capital. How would she ever fix anything? Where could she possibly start?
She learned about the Red Queen in Mortmesne and the treaty that called for 250 people of Tearling to be sent there each month for who knew what, children included. Tearling had started a lottery to choose those to be sent. And she learned that her mother was nothing like what she imagined her to be. Can she become a strong queen for Tearling? She can do no more than try.
This book, The Queen of the Tearling, has been talked about for months. It was one of the books to read, according to so many review journals and word of mouth. If you like fantasy adventure, you’ll like this book. If you liked Fire by Kristin Cashore, you’ll like this book. (But I think it’s better…) When I saw it on a shelf in my library, I checked it out. I devoured it in two days. Now I have to wait for the sequel. Because there has to be a sequel! There has to be!
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
We all know that many thousands of people gather in Times Square in New York City each year on December 31 and millions watch and celebrate at home. But why? Why December 31? And when did the ball drop in New York City become the American celebration it is?
We have to go way back in history to find out why January 1 is the beginning of the year, at least to most of us. The Jewish calendar and the Chinese calendar don’t begin on January 1. Neither does the Islamic calendar. In ancient times, the new year started for most civilizations after the Spring Equinox. It wasn’t until the time of Julius Caesar that our modern calendar was established. The calendar had gotten badly out of sync with the sun. That’s what happens when the year is only 10 months long. Julius Caesar added two months to the calendar (July and August, for Julius and Augusts, respectively.) He also established January 1 as the beginning of the year. Most European countries used the Julian calendar until it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which we still use today. That caused a great deal of unrest and problems, but that is another story.
Pope Gregory XIII, who invented the Gregorian calendar, also kept January 1 as the beginning of the year. Throughout history, January 1 was celebrated riotously, sometimes to excess. So much excess that these celebrations were banned after the Protestant Revolution. It took a while for fun and joy to return. Most people probably had a quiet celebration at home. Make you wonder how Scrooge would have celebrated the New Year.
New York was a happening town in the 19th century, bustling with life and many, many people. Around the beginning of the century, people began getting together to celebrate and welcome in the New Year. It didn’t take long to organize special events. People began to gather at times Square to celebrate New Year’s in 1904. It didn’t take long for the most famous celebration in the United States to start. The first ball drop was in 1907. But it was nothing like we see now. It was made of iron and wood, covered in 25 watt light bulbs—it weighed 700 hundred pounds! Made by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr; Mr. Starr formed the company that for most of the 1900s provided the ball for each new year celebration. And lest we think the lighted glasses and blinking light hats revelers wear are new, people wore battery-powered glasses in 1908!
In 1920, the ball’s weight was reduced to only 400 pounds. That ball was in use up until 1955, when an aluminum ball was introduced, weighing much less. In 1980, red lights were added and a green lit stem, making the ball look like an apple—for the New York: The Big Apple campaign. In 1988, the white lights returned; in 1998, the last aluminum ball was lowered. But for the year 2000 celebration, everything changed. That’s when Waterford Crystal and Phillips Lighting created a new, snazzier and jazzier ball! In 2007, the 100th anniversary of the ball dropping, LED lights were added to the aluminum and crystal ball. There are now 2,688 triangles on the ball, with over 30,000 LED lights make the ball more spectacular and programmable. The lights are more like programmed Christmas lights you see now. As an added bonus, and a year-round tourist attraction, the ball stays in full public view at Times Square. It weighs over 10,000 pounds (that’s five tons!) and is twelve feet in diameter. It is lowered slowly (you wouldn’t want a 5 ton object to move fast) down a 77 foot tall poll at one minute to midnight on December 31. The whole crowd counts down the last ten seconds, then the horns and screams echo throughout the city, chaos ensues and a new year begins.
Across the United States a range of cities and towns hold their own versions of the ball drop. A variety of objects are lowered or raised during the last minute of the year. The objects are usually linked to an aspect of local history or industry. Examples of objects ‘dropped’ or raised in this way include a variety of live and modeled domestic and wild animals, fruit, vegetables and more…
- In Key West, Florida, a very large conch is dropped
- Miami drops “Big Orange”
- Atlanta drops a peach – not surprising
- In Indianapolis, they started dropping an Indy race car recently
- Westover, NC drops a three-foot tall wooden flea
- In Cincinnati, a flying pig is flown (not dropped)
- Bethlehem, PA drops a 100 pound lighted Peep (the company headquarters are there…)
- Memphis drops a guitar, Nashville used to, but now it’s a musical note
- Plymouth, WI drops a huge cheese wedge, and why not?
- Boise, ID drops a huge potato
- Raleigh, NC drops a giant acorn made of brass—it weighs 900 pounds
- And for a bit of fun, Stroudsburg, PA drops ping pong balls!