The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

We’re wrapping up January, so time to reveal my first book pick of the year. I decided to start with the poetry book (reminder: the list of 12 categories we’ll see this year is in this post). Now, a few caveats to this: I was a politics major, not a lit major, so while I read great gobs of poetry, I didn’t immerse myself in it the same way that a lit major would. I can’t in all honesty say that I have a favorite poet, or a favorite type of poetry. I know I’m rather fond of the Romantics, but that’s the extent of it. I’m comfortable admitting that my strengths lie elsewhere. However, I do enjoy poetry, at least in small doses.

The question, then, was what to pick. There is, well, a staggering amount of poetry within the library, and a decent amount of poetry in my home. So what to pick, and how, and why? In the end, serendipity won out. I was going through our returns at the end of the semester when this little volume peaked my interest. It’s an anthology rather than a collection of poems by a single author. The poems are organized around the seasons, as well as a special section for New Years, which I decided to read on New Years Eve.

I did enjoy a decent number of the poems in this volume. I particularly liked that these were not poems that were word for word about a season. They were more evocative of things one might associate with a season. I will say, for me, a whole book of poetry is sort of like a whole box of dark chocolate truffles– nice in small pieces, but really hard to work through in any short or medium amount of time. I would have liked to spend more time with this one to see if I could get more out of it, but the month rolls on and there we are.

I also found the themes assigned to each season to be intriguing, though I didn’t necessarily feel like all of them were on the nose. Spring is focused on Pan, Diana, Courtship, and the Road. Summer is about birthdays, hunting, madness, nonsense, and music. Fall is for outlaws, soldiers, the sea, evening, elegies and farewells. Winter is the time of snowstorm, separations, hauntings, the night, witches and spells, and drinking songs. The New Year gets renamed “Beyond Winter” and covers love, the muses, and earthly paradise.

I get putting hauntings in to winter– there is an old tradition of ghost stories for Christmas, after all. Summer does feel perfectly suited. Fall is a bit harder,  because I’m still in that mental space where fall means changing, leaving the long lazy days of summer and moving back to the rigid world of both school and work (as opposed to “just work”). All in all, an interesting volume but I wouldn’t suggest it for those who are not used to reading poetry– start with something a little thinner, a little more straightforward; if one can ever describe poetry that way.

Other volumes in the collection to explore for your poetry volume:

  • First, you can find the poetry in the Newman Room, as all the call numbers are in that range of call numbers. You can try the serendipity approach easily; almost ever shelf in that room has some work of poetry on it!
  • The College has always had a certain affinity for Richard Wilbur, and you can find him in the Newman Room– we have several collections
  • I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brooks and Warren’s Understanding Poetry, which was a staple of writing workshop for me as a Freshman.
  • Probably the only book of poetry I sought out in my underclassman years was the complete works of Henry Vaughan, which we have. For the Madeline L’Engle fans out there, he wrote “The World” (I saw Eternity the other night/ Like a great ring of pure and endless light)
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The Game’s afoot!

The Game’s afoot!

Happy Sherlock Holmes day! Did you know there was a Sherlock Holmes day? Apparently, those this is somewhat disputed, December 1 is considered the publication date for A Study in Scarlet, which is the first published Sherlock Holmes mystery (and one of the handful that I’ve read). I find Holmes fascinating– the mysteries are intriguing, and you don’t feel like you’ve solved them within the first few pages, which is nice.

Holmes also has remarkable staying power: 32 different actors have portrayed him in English film alone, and there are TV adaptations as well as radio. Basil Rathbone is quintessential for some, but others who have worn the deerstalker include:  Peter Cushing, Roger Moore, Christopher Plummer, John Barrymore (yes, those Barrymores), Christopher Lee (yes, that Christopher Lee), George C Scott, John Cleese (yes, of Monty Python), Michael Caine, and Orson Wells. Currently, you have Benedict Cumberbatch in England, Jonny Lee Miller in America, and Will Ferrel has a movie coming out next year. That’s a heck of a list. Its also a heck of a time frame: adaptations of Homles stretch from stage plays in 1899 to a movie that hasn’t been released yet and TV shows still in production. There’s something about the character. What intrigues me is that, as I was typing that list, I couldn’t spot a single miscasting. It makes sense for all of those men to have played that character– since the Cleese role was in a parody, and that makes a certain sense too. How do you create a character that can be played by so many different actors, with different styles?

We have a small collection of Holmes at the library– look in the Newman Room in the PR section and you will spot the Conan Doyle. The stories are also, for the most part, in the public domain so you can find digital copies through Project Gutenberg and DPLA, as well as radio plays on Spotify. I’ve listened to those before– the quality is good, and they feature Basil Rathbone in the Holmes role.

Jane Austen and word choice

Jane Austen and word choice

This article has been making the rounds in Libraryland, and I’m sure some of you may have come across it as well. If not, take a peek!

For me, what’s interesting is the way that folks try to explain “Why Austen.” I’ve never been hugely influenced by Austen– I’ve read 3 of her novels, certainly seen more then a few cinematic adaptations, and even read a few Austen inspired pieces– but she was never a go to for me. To borrow a concept from The Little Paris Bookshop, Austen was never a medicine or tonic that squared with my life (mental, emotional, spiritual), and she’s not in my reading apothecary. At the same time, Lucy Maud Montgomery is, and I think there’s a development in English language novels following Austen, and LMM follows on. So I can’t hate on Austen, to be sure. I think Austen is also easier to appreciate the older you get, because you realize how insightfully she can write about humanity, and you have to see a certain amount of it before you can really get that.