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Because Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month!

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman's blog - click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman’s blog – click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Occasionally I wonder if we should call poetry something else, like lexicography gymnastics or maybe the grand sensual buffet. Something sexier, peppier, less likely to make people break out in hives. People who love poetry see the word quite differently of course. It even sounds different: all those uninhibited vowels floating around (broad o, bridge of eh, musical tweet of ee), anchored solely by p and t, with the r kind of gliding by, like the tail of a kite. Just enough consonants to hang on to, sturdy fence posts in a windstorm.

Hm. Maybe we should stick with “poetry” a little longer: like a bracing spring gale, it has hopeful possibilities.

Every year or so I make a case for exploring poetry. This year, though, I’m taking the next step and writing my way through the exercises in The Poet’s Companion. It’s messy, joyful, splendid work, and if you’re ready too, there are a whole lot of other books to guide and inspire you. If you’re not quite there yet (never say never),  the Academy of American Poets has other suggestions for celebrating National Poetry Month, including celebrating “Poem in Your Pocket Day” (April 18) and playing Exquisite Corpse, which not only sounds edgy and dangerous, but is also guaranteed to rescue any meeting stretching into its third hour, provided you can find some co-conspirators.

Here are some other ways you can explore poetry in April, and all year ’round:

  • 3 Poems By… is a great opportunity to be social with other poetry-curious folks, and try a poet on for size with small chunks of her/his work. This month’s discussion spotlights Edna St. Vincent Millay, the “First Fig” fraulein; e-mail newandfeatured at carnegielibrary dot org to get the scoop, and the poems.
  • Curious about how poetry intersects with the mundane world? Don’t forget Sam Hazo’s presentation, Poetry and Public Speech, on April 7th, 2014, 6-8 p.m.
  • Consult the Pittsburgh Literary Calendar to find a reading that’s convenient for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how much diversity and range there is on the local poetry scene.
  • Pressed for time, but have your phone with you? Download some poetry from our Overdrive digital collection. Busy Apple users can also download the Poem Flow app and share the communal reading experience of a new poem every day.
  • Countless options for streaming and recorded poetry online abound, both on the free web and via the Library’s subscription to Naxos Spoken Word Library (valid card number required for login). Bonus: NPR’s Music and Metaphor has just kicked off its 2014 Poetry Month programming.
  • Shake up your perceptions of what poetry is by flirting with cowboy poetry! You know you want to. We’ll never tell.
  • Like videos? You can watch everyday people reading their favorite poems at the Favorite Poem Project.
  • More of the research and facts type? Check out this report on the state of poetry in America.

And, of course, we’d be thrilled if you’d consider stopping by the library to meet the poets in person, as it were. Introduce yourself to Yona Harvey, Nikky Finney, David Whyte, Rumi, Sonia Sanchez, anybody whose cover art looks interesting, or whose titles grab you. Go for an anthology, so you can meet a whole lot of poets at one time. Keep throwing things against your heart to see what sticks. Borrow then as audiobooks, Playaways, or DVDs, and don’t forget that musicians can be poets too.

Just don’t let National Poetry month go by without giving it a teensy bit of a whirl. Because poetry is for kidsadults, and teens, working people and retirees. Because poetry covers every single point on the erotic spectrum, and is produced by as many different kinds of people as there are in the world (and, sometimes, their cats). Because…well, why not?

Because poetry.

–Leigh Anne

who promises she won’t corner you in the elevator and ask your opinion on drafts


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Shelf Examination: Sci-fi and Fantasy

First in a series of posts designed to help you make friends with a novel you might not otherwise have met.   Designed for folks who love to read, but hate hopping back and forth on one foot in front of the shelf, hoping the parking meter won’t expire before they’ve made a decision.

The Book: Freedom and Necessity, Emma Bull and Steven Brust.

Check this out if you like:  epistolary storytelling, 19th-century politcial intrigue, sophisticated vocabulary/diction, romantic subplots, magic, philosophy, or historical fantasy in the style of Susanna Clarke.

book jacket

The book:  Soon I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman.

Check this out if you like:  hipster snark in the style of Dave Eggers, graphic novels/comics (especially The X-Men),  mad scientists who try to take over the world, or climactic showdowns in secret lairs.

book jacket

The book:  The Execution Channel, Ken MacLeod.

Check this out if you like:  stories about dystopian futures, spy novels, blogging and other online intrigue, conspiracy theories, or fast-paced political thrillers.

book jacket

The book:  The Serpent and the Rose, Kathleen Bryan.

Check this out if you like:  Epic fantasy, strong female protagonists, unlikely heroes, chivalric romances, intricate mythologies, or classic tales of Good versus Evil.

book jacket

The book: The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code, Robert Rankin.

Check this out if you like:  Surreal humor, parody, bad puns, music history and folklore, secret cabals that rule the world, and imaginary friends named Mr. Giggles the Monkey Boy.

Bonus:  The hardback version of this book contains a CD with songs mentioned in the text, including “Dance of the Sugar Plum Technofairy.”

 Intrigued?  Amused?  Perplexed?  My work here is done.  Happy reading!

–Leigh Anne


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Bad Things, Good People, Helpful Books (and other things)

“Life is difficult.”  This simple truth is the first sentence of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, long considered a classic of both psychology and spiritual living. When the chips are down, and things aren’t going your way, it can be comforting to read the words of folks who have experience in these matters, whether you’re struggling with a specific situation or a general malaise. While no book is a substitute for the opinion of a qualified mental health professional, and you should definitely consider reaching out to the community, a quiet retreat with a relevant resource can help you get your thoughts together before you call on a doctor, family member, or friend.

Those seeking comfort from a higher power will find consolation from every spiritual tradition under the sun on our shelves. Those who prefer a more secular approach to problem-solving will find all sorts of hidden gems via a subject search for self-help techniques. And if you’re feeling just a tad skeptical, you might get a laugh out of Beth Lisick’s wacky misadventures with the genre.

Librarians really value your privacy, so if you’re looking for information on personal subjects, we will keep your concerns confidential when you come to the reference desk. If you really don’t feel like talking to us, though, that’s okay too – just be reassured that, no matter what you’re looking for, we try to have it in the building for you, just in case.

That will be five cents, please! Just kidding. Until next time, be safe and well.

–Leigh Anne

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The rectangle is the new circle.

When people come up to the Film & Audio Department looking for audiobooks, I know that there’s a whole litany of questions I’ll have to ask before we can find that special book for them.

The first question is always, “What kind of audiobook were you looking for?” I’m trying to find out if they’d like fiction or nonfiction, mysteries or science fiction – helpful librarian stuff like that. 

Unfortunately, the answer that I usually get is, “The kind that you listen to in the car.” Now I know that I have to try a different approach.

“Okay,” I respond. “Cassettes or CDs?” This question is usually effective. They pick a format, and off we go. But sometimes I am met with a confused stare. That leads us to the next question, and eventually, to the subject of this post.

“Right,” I reply. “Would you like a rectangle or a circle?” I make the appropriate shape with my hands (for the visual learners), and away we go.

“Oh! Rectangle! I mean, cassette!” or “Circles, I mean CDs, please.” And from there we get into fiction, nonfiction, how long is your trip, is your grandmother or six year-old in the car with you, all of them very important things.

You see, when I first started working with audiovisual materials, the library was just getting into the book-on-cassette thing. There was even a time when I spent a good part of my day splicing broken cassette tapes (and now I can splice almost anything). But a few years later, we switched to the book-on-CD thing, and there was much rejoicing. We were cutting edge! CDs are shiny and round and awesome! Look at us!

Now we still purchase audiobooks on CD, but we’re exploring new formats: we also carry Playaways, which are compact MP3 players preloaded with a complete book, and we offer two different downloadable audiobook services through Overdrive and NetLibrary – just download the book you want and put it on your MP3 player! It’s cutting-edge enough to make a brave librarian weep.

So you see (or hear, in this case)  how we’ve come back to where we started. From cassettes (rectangles) to CDs (circles) and now to Playaways and MP3 players (rectangles once more), there’s an audiobook format out there for everyone.



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