Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Simply put, the poetry of Paul Celan is not an easy art to grapple with nor should it have been, for Celan was a poet of cultural and geographic exile, victimized by the brutality of the Second World War (losing both parents to prison camps). Celan, a survivor of the Holocaust, wrote some of the most hauntingly powerful verse of post-war Europe, often with the aim of trying to reconcile the psychologically grating problems associated with his use of the German language while retaining his Jewish identity. Celan always felt like an outsider and his poetry reflects his lifelong struggle with the kind of irreconcilable dualities that bestows great poetry with its power to name terror and redeem its voiceless victims. Celan’s poetry echoes many of the kinds of thematic concerns and influences that mark the work of his European contemporaries (Theodor Adorno, E.M Cioran, Maurice Blanchot, Edmond Jabes, Jacques Derrida e.g.), including his fellow Parisian exile, Samuel Beckett.
Widely known for his much anthologized poem Death Fugue, Celan set about crafting a body of work distinct for its cryptic abstraction, monosyllabic gasps, references to Jewish symbolism and themes of trauma and human dislocation. Celan's poetry is heartbreakingly expressive even as it reduces language to its sparest essentials. His influence can be seen in the work of poets working today, including Michael Palmer, Rita Dove, Sharon Olds and Adrienne Rich.
Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan
Lately, I seem to discover poetry and other commentaries about literature and/or books and how important each is to us. The April 2009 issue of Bookbird, a magazine published by the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) folks, contains a short poem by J. Patrick Lewis, a poet from Westerville OH. Here it is:
| ||Books are thieves of hours.|
They kidnap the mind;
The body is left behind.
But books are always
After serving many
What a tribute to books! And, to literature. Imagine yourself on a journey, taken vicariously through a favorite book. See yourself caught up in the moment, and forgetting such everyday things as eating and showering. See yourself in a far-away place, returning home after a glorious journey that would not have been possible without the trip taken with a book!
The Library has many books by J. Patrick Lewis, including The Bookworm’s Feast: a Potluck of Poems and Please Bury Me in the Library. These may be found in the Children’s collection, along with Mr. Lewis’ other titles.
Drop by soon and enjoy your feast or journey with these and other delectable choices from the poetry collections in Children’s, Teen, and Adult areas.
The Bookworm's Feast: a Potluck of Poems
This post may come a little early—April is National Poetry Month—but I couldn’t wait to blog about my favorite poet, Rita Dove. I first discovered the former U.S. Poet Laureate in a writing class at WMU, where I was quickly wowed by her collection of poems called Mother Love. In Mother Love, Dove uses the ancient Greek myth about Demeter and Persephone to explore mother-daughter relationships and does it with the grace and insight only a poet has. I highly recommend it, along with Dove’s American Smooth which celebrates America’s diverse cultural heritage using dance metaphors.
The recent Caldecott Honor for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams doesn’t depend on the fact that William Carlos Williams’ poems are referenced throughout Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat, in the opening lines of T4, a new novel in verse about a deaf girl in 1939 Nazi Germany, and in a recent episode of This American Life. The poems are referenced in all of these places because of the way the spare verse conveys that vivid imagery. The poems are accessible. If you remember just one poem it might very well be “The Red Wheelbarrow”. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is a beautifully illustrated biography of the life of the pediatrician who in his spare time wrote some of the most influential American poetry of the last century. While the factual information about William Carlos Williams’ life doesn’t run deep, the text complements Melissa Sweet’s mixed media illustrations. The illustrations incorporate several of Williams’ best-known poems. This new biography for kids is a great introduction to the poetry of William Carlos Williams.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Jack’s back in Newbery award winner Sharon Creech’s sequel to Love that Dog. Jack continues to journal his life and his exploration of poetry as taught by Miss Stretchberry, an uncommonly good teacher. It's Jack's good fortune to be in her class for a second year in a row. Jack’s derivative poems based on examples by Walter Dean Myers, William Carlos Williams, Valerie Worth and others bring the originals - all in the back of the book - to life in a fresh way. The poems all work together to tell us more about Jack's life and his family. Jack has so much heart and so does this book. Once again, Creech offers up a warm read that just happens to celebrate poetry – and the potential of great poetry teaching - along the way. If you liked Love that Dog, you’ll love Hate that Cat.
Hate that Cat
Come to the Central Library and check out our special display, “Books that touched us”. The library staff has written short reviews of books that made an impact on their lives. One such book for me was Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. This is a collection of poems read to my sister and me by our mother. One of my favorites was “My Shadow”.
It starts: “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, And what can be the use of him is more than I can see. He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed."
A Child's Garden of Verses
Vladimir Mayakovsky’s titanic voice made him the first Soviet “rap star” and “literary bad boy” to emerge after the Russian revolution of 1917. His avant garde experimentations with futurist poetics, his hyperbolic style of emotionally charged verse, his romantically intense yet doomed love affairs, and his descent from “poet laureate of the revolution” to disillusioned apologist for a flawed social experiment have all been lovingly compiled in “Night Wraps the Sky”, a book of writings about his life and work in addition to newly translated versions of his prose. For those of us who discovered and were drawn to Mayakovsky’s electrically charged verse that gave voice to both lyric heartache and the spirit of revolutionary possibilities while in the midst of our angst-filled college years, this is the book we’ve been waiting for. This eclectic compilation of his work and chronicles of his life serves as a wonderful companion to lovers of poetry who gaze across their book shelves and see inscribed upon the spines of books the names Rimbaud, Ginsberg, O’Hara, Rexroth, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Plath, and Brodsky.
Night wraps the sky : writings by and about Mayakovsky
In 1832 it was not the intention of the town’s management to provide the cash and the means for a new exclusive boarding home to be turned into a school for “young little misses of color.” After allowing the school’s colored housekeeper to attend classes, no amount of pressure could alleviate Miss Crandall’s determination to withstand ostracism, arrest and terror in order to educate those who desired it. Although the students survived angry taunts, rocks, poison and fire, Miss Crandall’s determination could not hold back the hatred because in the fall of 1834 the townspeople ravaged the building, set fire to it and the school was forced to close.
“This thirst is permanent,
the well bottomless, my good fortune vast.
An uneducated mind is a clenched fist
That can’t open, like a bud, into a flower
Whose being reaches, every waking hour,
and who sleeps a fragrant dream of gratitude.” MN
Poets Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson wrote this book of poems defining the trials of brave young girls that dared to dream at a time when their dreams could not yet be realized. Floyd Cooper, winner of three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, is the illustrator and does a terrific job with this collection of innovative poetry.
Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color
John Rybicki has a new book We Bed Down Into Water: Poems. There was a casual gathering of fans and friends this morning as John read from the book and from scraps of paper containing new works in progress. Poetry on this humid summer morning felt just right.
We Bed Down Into Water: Poems