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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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Still Wintering In

At the end of January I got sick. It was a weird perfect storm of running afoul of some mushrooms in a batch of veggie dumplings, mixed with some flu symptoms. I used to LOVE mushrooms, but a couple of years ago they started making me really sick when I ate them. I’ve since stayed away, but I hoovered down a batch of veggie dumplings containing mushrooms and got very ill (I’ll spare you the gory details). At the same time I got hit with a flu-like strain that was going around. I was out of work for a week. I’ve never been out of commission for a whole week as an adult. It was an odd experience.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

I don’t like being too sick to read, but my condition lent itself to such a situation. So, while being ill, I watched TV. A LOT of TV. I no longer have a cable package that has lots of channels. In an attempt to save some money we went down to the most basic package that we could. I get about 7 channels, the PBS stations, and about 10 home shopping channels (I personally think that is a very weird set up, but so be it). At any rate, while I was sick I ended up watching a lot of Law & Order. And, again, I mean A LOT. It’s on often…and when I say “often” I mean 4-or-5-episodes-a-day “often.” And I’m not talking about any of the spin-offs, the Criminal Intent, or the Special Victims Unit, or the Trial by Jury, or the Los Angeles, or the UK… just regular old Law & Order. This show, for those of you not in the know (which was me up until I got sick), is a series that spans a 20 year block of time. It’s kind of amazing to me that this show was off my radar for the entire time that it was broadcast…but I don’t think I ever watched a single episode. What might be more remarkable is that this show was on from 1990 until 2010.

Image from Wikipedia

Law & Order Season 1 cast. Image from Wikipedia

Because of my recent immersion into the world of Law & Order I decided to, with the help of my friendly neighborhood library, watch the series from the beginning. I have no idea how far I’ll get before I decide to throw in the towel, but I’m into season 4, and I’m still engaged. The somewhat cynical side of me wants to say that Law & Order is the “poor man’s version of The Wire” (My love for The Wire deserves a whole post, so I won’t get into it here). Suffice it to say, for a network TV show that tries to wrap things up in an hour, Law & Order still surprises me in that it allows some open endings and some character developments that I didn’t expect. I have no idea if that quality will remain through the whole series, but as far as the first four seasons are concerned, I’m a fan.

Season six cast. Image from Wikipedia.

Season six cast. Image from Wikipedia.

Oh, and for the signature “chonk CHONK” sound that accompanies many of the scene breaks in the show, I found the following information on the Law & Order Wikipedia page: “The tone moves the viewer from scene to scene, jumping forward in time with all the importance and immediacy of a judge’s gavel – which is exactly what [music director] Post was aiming for when he created it. “The Clang” is an amalgamation of nearly a dozen sounds, including an actual gavel, a jail door slamming, and five hundred Japanese monks walking across a hardwood floor.”

Season 19 cast. Image from Wikipedia.

A fuzzy Season 19 cast. Image from Wikipedia.

I have NO idea if any of that is accurate, but it sort of blew me away!

-Eric (who is currently binge-watching Law & Order with the cats)


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It’s Pumpkin Season!

pumpkinsI know, I know. It’s actually been pumpkin season for at least a month now. As soon as Starbucks rolls out their pumpkin spice latte, people go crazy thinking it’s fall. They want to start raking leaves, wearing sweaters and craving other autumnal activities, even if it is still 75 degrees outside.

There is at least one person at my house who goes bonkers for anything pumpkin flavored. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his birthday is on October 31st. So while planning his Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza, I began to wonder what kind of pumpkin books we had in the collection. Turns out that we have quite a bit, even besides the expected children’s items. Here are a few that stood out to me…

Carving Pumpkins:
Carving the Perfect Pumpkin [DVD]
Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
Carving Pumpkins by Dana Meachen Rau
How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins by Sarah L. Schuette

Holiday Pumpkins by Georgeanne Brennan
Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito – (Yes, pumpkin is one of the 10!)
Pumpkins: Over 75 Farm-Fresh Recipes
Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel

Growing the Biggest Pumpkin:
Lords of the Gourd: The Pursuit of Excellence[DVD]
Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Picture Books for Kids:
Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke
The Perfect Pumpkin Hunt by Gail Herman
How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell Minor
It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Night of the Pumpkinheads by Michael J. Rosen; pumpkin carvings by Hugh McMahon

Other Items that I’m Sure Have Nothing to Do with Actual Pumpkins:
Pumpkin Teeth: Stories by Tom Cardamone
The Pumpkin Man by John Everson
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz
The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
Pumpkin Scissors: The Complete Series [DVD]

Happy Autumn!
-Melissa M.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza will begin with pumpkin French toast bake and pumpkin pie smoothies for breakfast. Pumpkin mac-n-cheese will be the lunch special. Then, there will be pumpkin-shrimp bruschetta, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, arugula and dried cherry salad and pumpkin ravioli with sage browned butter for dinner. We’ll finish up with pumpkin tiramisu and a side of pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies for dessert. I also have recipes for a few pumpkin cocktails! ;)


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It’s Back to School Time!

schoolpicIf you have kids, by now they’ve probably started their school year. (Except, maybe, if your teachers are on strike, but that’s a whole other story!) I just want to take this moment to remind you that the Library is here for all of your school supplemental needs. If your child needs some extra help in a language, we have video, audio and print materials to help. If they need to do a report on a president, we have videos and books about everyone from Washington to Obama. If you want to know what you could be doing to encourage homework completion, we have books and online tutors for that. If you and your kids need a break, you need to know that the Library has movies and fiction and programs galore! Here is just a sample of what’s waiting for you and your school-age children at the library…

For You:

A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years by Joe Bruzzese

Making Friends: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Child’s Friendships by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer

The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5: How to Support Your Child’s Education, End Homework Meltdowns, and Build Parent-Teacher Connections by ML Nichols

You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25 by Laurence Steinberg

For Your Preschooler:

3-2-1 School Is Fun!

200 Essential Preschool Activities by Julienne M. Olson

For Your Elementary School Student:

Making a Bully-Free World by Pamela Hall

My School Community by Bobbie Kalman

First Day of School by Anne Rockwell

Manners at School by Siân Smith

For Your Middle School Student:

Dealing with Bullies, Cliques, and Social Stress by Jennifer Landau

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter

Stuck in the Middle of Middle School: A Novel in Doodles by Karen Romano Young

How Not to Choke on Tests: Achieving Academic and Testing Success by Stephanie Watson

For Your High School Student:

The Dictionary of High School B.S.: From Acne to Varsity, All the Funny, Lame, and Annoying Aspects of High School Life by Lois Beckwith

How to Become a Superstar Student [DVD] by Professor Michael Geisen

Been There, Survived That: Getting through Freshman Year of High School edited by Karen Macklin

Teens’ Guide to College & Career Planning: Your High School Roadmap for College & Career Success

For You & Your High School Senior:

Getting In Without Freaking Out: The Official College Admissions Guide for Overwhelmed Parents by Arlene Matthews

Tackling College Admissions: Sanity + Strategy = Success: Just for Parents by Cheryl Paradis and Faren R. Siminoff

Happy School Days!

-Melissa M.

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Murder Most Charming

The First Floor: New and Featured section of the Main library has a pretty epic graphic novel collection. That’s where I first came upon the works of Rick Geary, who writes and illustrates A Treasury of Victorian Murder and A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, two of the most delightful historical true crime series that’ll you’ll ever find (though to be fair, I’m not sure that he has a lot of competition in this arena).

I’ve read them all a few times, and always pounce on the new titles as soon as they come in. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.


That is not a trustworthy mustache.

The Beast of Chicago: an Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World as H.H. Holmes – This character may sound familiar to you. It’s because he’s the Devil in Erik Larson’s most excellent book, The Devil in the White City. If you want both murder and lengthy digressions about architecture, read Larson’s book. If you want to get right down to business, read Geary’s book instead – there’s more than enough historical detail in here to make it both educational and an exciting romp. For the best of both worlds, you should (of course) read both books. This one really helped me picture the events described in The Devil in the White City, because, well, pictures. There are excellent diagrams of Holmes’ bizarre mansion, illustrations of Chicago and the World’s Fair, and maps of Holmes’ final flight. Good stuff all around.

(Bonus: Here’s a DVD about architectin’, and here’s one about murderin’. Because I belong to the Film & Audio department and have to work this stuff in somewhere.)

The Borden Tragedy: a Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Mass., 1892 – Before I read this book, all I knew about Lizzie Borden could be summarized as “Lizzie Borden took an axe, something something something.” But after reading just the title of this book, my Internal Borden Murder Fact Database instantly tripled in size! And once you crack open the covers, there’s even more good stuff – Borden’s mother wasn’t murdered, it was her stepmother. Borden’s father didn’t believe in hallways, so their house looked really weird (the floor plans are mighty confusing). Mrs. Borden died while cleaning the guest bedroom (19 blows), and Mr. Borden died while napping in the sitting room (10 blows). The back cover even lists the similarities between Lizzie’s case and that of the formerly illustrious O.J. Simpson.

that song

Copyright 1997 by Rick Geary!

Those two are pretty famous cases, like most of the titles in the series – there are books about the Lindbergh kidnapping, Jack the Ripper, and the assassinations of presidents Lincoln and Garfield, to name a few. But there are others – cases that were famous in their day but aren’t remembered now, like the murder of actor and director William Desmond Taylor, the trial of poisoner Madeline Smith, and the story of the Bender family, described below.

Hospitable looking, aren’t they?

The Saga of the Bloody Benders: the Infamous Homicidal Family of Labette County, Kansas – The Bender family (mother, father, son, and daughter) appeared in Kansas in 1870, purchased land near a local trail, and set up a small inn and grocery store to attract the business of people travelling west. Over the next three years or so travelers and locals alike started to disappear, usually after last visiting the Bender property. The family themselves vanished just when the townsfolk decided to start investigating – and then all sorts of things came to light: a missing man’s glasses, an odd assortment of hammers, a blood-soaked basement floor, and a collection of shallow graves. Ew.

If you enjoy true crime, unhappy books, Victorian history, cool illustrations, and gruesome facts, these are the books for you. Or if you have a slightly morbid reluctant reader (with strong nerves) in your home, introduce him (her/it/them) to Rick Geary. His books are educational, beautifully illustrated, and creepy good fun.

– Amy


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Veterans of the Format Wars

All that remains.

All that remains.

Once upon a time the Main library had over 3,000 movies* on VHS tape, but now we’re down to the last few stalwart survivors – less than fifty in all. Our remaining feature films on VHS (with one notable exception**) are movies that are no longer available on DVD, were never released on DVD, or are hard to find in any format. Here are a few highlights from this tiny collection, for your amusement.

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* For comparison, we now have over 9,000 movies on DVD – roughly 7,000 in English and 2,000 foreign films. That is amazing.

** The notable exception is a VHS copy of “Dial M for Murder.” Of course we have it on DVD, but this one brave tape has been checked out five hundred and eighty-nine times since 1993. It deserves a permanent home.

– Amy


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what is this i don’t even

Last month I replaced most of our worn and damaged TV series box sets – now the Main library has scads of new DVDs, including The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Desperate Housewives, Fingersmith (man, does that one circulate), M*A*S*H, Prime Suspect, The Sopranos, and the original* Upstairs Downstairs.

New!     New!     New and sexy!     New!

When I replace DVDs, I always inspect the old discs before I send them to their final resting places (final resting places can vary, you see – but that’s all boring and technical). Anyway, this is what I found inside the second season of Upstairs Downstairs.

what is this i don’t even

Someone, somewhere, at some time, put a sticker on disc F. A sticker that’s exactly the same as what’s beneath it (note: please don’t do this).

Obviously, I had to share my confusion with my coworkers – most of them sat very still for a few moments, blinking slowly in sad puzzlement before finally turning to me with a slightly pained expression in their eyes that begged, “Why? But why?” as if their very hearts would break if I could not unravel this mystery for them.

We have our theories, of course – though they involve library trade secrets, so I can’t share them with you here. You’ll have to work it out on your own (or you can just check out Fingersmith instead).

– Amy

* There’s a 2010 version, as well.

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