Poetry

How are you enjoying National Poetry Writing Month? If you're participating in #NaPoWriMo, it can be hard to decide what to write about, but we're here to help! Here are a few prompts to get you started this week.

Day 8: Idioms and proverbs are fun because when someone unfamiliar with one asks us, “What does that mean?” we don’t know always how to respond. We just know, right? Find an idiom or proverb you love (or one that you don’t get) and write a poem around it.

Day 9: Use these random words and write a poem: coil, useless, hulking, wistful, space.

Day 10: Let’s try syllable work and create a Cinquain poem. The Cinquain is five lines long. The first line is comprised of 2 syllables, 4 in the second line, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth, and 2 in the fifth. 

Day 11: Write a poem relying on the senses of smell, taste, hearing, touch. Do not use sight at all in the poem but rather create an image with the other four senses. 

Day 12: Find five things in your house that start with the same letter. Write a poem where they all appear.

Day 13: Write a poem where your first initial is the first letter of each line in the first stanza, your middle initial is the first letter of each in the second stanza  (if you don’t have one, you get one less stanza!), and your last initial is the first letter of the last stanza. For extra credit, create a final line where you have a word starting with each letter to finish off.

Day 14: Let’s practice repetition! Pick a letter in the alphabet and try to repeat the letter again and again in your poem.

For more poetic inspiration, be sure to check out last week's post, and be on the lookout for more ideas the next two weeks. 

Documentary Rowing

One of my favorite things we did at the library this last year happened last September when we held a screening of the wildly popular documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.  More than 250 people filled our ballroom for the event, and together we laughed and cried over the memories shared of one of America’s most beloved people on television.

Since 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, a lot of information has come out about the man behind the puppets.  I’ve enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite people from my childhood, and doing so in multiple formats.  Following are some of my favorite examples of learning about true events in multiple formats:

Subject: Mr. Rogers

4.5 Wont You Be My NeighborWON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
(2018)

Of course I have to start off this list with the documentary that got me thinking about the topic.  This documentary interviews the friends, family, and coworkers of Mr. Rogers, and gives a great picture of the real Mr. Rogers.

 

4.5 The Good NeighborTHE GOOD NEIGHBOR
By Maxwell King
(2018)

This book is a great addition to the documentary and adds even more to the life story of Fred Rogers.  As a bonus, the audiobook is narrated by another favorite PBS television host, LeVar Burton.

 
 

Subject: The Vietnam War

4.5 The Vietnam WarTHE VIETNAM WAR
(2017)

This excellent ten-part documentary by documentary legend Ken Burns really takes viewers back to the time period, using all sorts of archival evidence to help make sense of a very confusing, divisive time in history.

 

4.5 Boots on the GroundBOOTS ON THE GROUND: AMERICA’S WAR IN VIETNAM
By Elizabeth Partridge
(2018)

There is an official companion book meant to coincide with Ken Burns’ documentary, but I really enjoyed this young adult nonfiction telling of the Vietnam War.  Each chapter tells to story of one person’s experience in the war, whether that’s the president of the United States, a machine gunner, or a protester.  These combined viewpoints made the complexities of the war really stand out to me.

 
 

Subjects: Falconry, and Overcoming Grief

4.5 H is for HawkH IS FOR HAWK
By Helen Macdonald
(2015)

This award-winning best-seller tells the story of how the author, an experienced falconer, decided to try her hand at training a goshawk.  Her experiences with training help her deal with the grief she feels after the sudden death of her father.

 

4.5 H is for Hawk DVDH IS FOR HAWK: A NEW CHAPTER
(2017)

Following the success of the book, PBS Nature worked with Macdonald to create a documentary about her work with goshawks.  This added view into Macdonald’s world adds another layer of insight into both Macdonald’s life, and her work with these fascinating predators.

 
 

Subject: Underdog Sports Stories

4.5 The Boys in the BoatTHE BOYS IN THE BOAT
by Daniel James Brown
(2013)

This fascinating book tells the story of the University of Washington 1936 eight-oar crew team, who beat out other successful and well-known crew teams in their quest for an Olympic gold medal.

 

4.5 The Boys of 36THE BOYS OF ‘36
(2016)

This documentary about the University of Washington 1936 eight-oar crew team expands on the story told in the book by showing more photographs, and by including newsreel clips and interviews with sports historians and surviving family members to round out the story.

 
 

Subject: Activism/Malala Yousafzai

4.5 I Am MalalaI AM MALALA
By Malala Yousafzai
(2013)

This best-selling book about a girl who fought for her right to an education, and was shot by the Taliban is an inspiration that shows one person really can make a difference.

 

4.5 He Named Me MalalaHE NAMED ME MALALA
(2015)

This documentary expands on the best-selling book, giving the viewer an inside look into Malala Yousafzai and her family, and on the effect Malala’s activism has had on her life.

 
 

Poetry

Poetry. I understand that the mere word instils fear into the hearts of some. But I think there is a kind of poetry for everyone. So, this month I wish to celebrate the art of poetry. 

As I believe that there is poetry for everyone to enjoy, I also think everyone should dabble in the writing of poetry. As part of National Poetry Month, there is a challenge to write a poem every day. I am going to participate in this challenge and encourage all of you to do the same!

I have written 30 days worth of prompts so you don’t need to have any fear or crisis with lack of ideas. Also, hopefully these challenges are diverse enough that they give you practice in many different styles of poetry. As you work to complete this challenge, I encourage you not to worry about how “good” your poems are. Just write for the sake of creating something that only you could have written. If there’s one that you like or see potential in, come back to it later and make it something even more beautiful. If there’s one that makes your stomach cringe, just try again the next day. Ultimately this is about practice, not perfection.

If you don’t like my prompts (or would like more) please visit napowrimo.net. They will be posting daily prompts throughout April.

Day 1: April Fools Day! Write a nonsense poem, which is basically poetry that has no meaning and is whimsical and focused mainly on rhyme. (A great nonsense poet is Dr. Seuss)

Day 2: Find a book (perhaps at your local library) and turn to page 35, pick a sentence, and write a poem with that sentence as inspiration.

Day 3: Write an elegy or an ode to an odd object found around the house. (For example, I once wrote an ode to all the bobby-pins I’ve lost over the years)

Day 4: What’s your least favorite kind of weather? Ok, now write a poem glorifying it with beautiful language. 

Day 5: Take a drive or search online for a house that is unique. Whether it is cute or creepy, large or small, write a poem about that house and why it struck you. 

Day 6: Did you know Dictionary.com has a word of the day? Look up the one for today and somehow integrate that word into your poem.

Day 7: Love poems seem to all be the same these days. Take the idea of love (in any of its forms) and compare it to an unusual object. Start your poem with: “Love is” and insert your own word or phrase. (For example: “Love is a Lucky Charms cereal box”)  

We'll share another week's worth of prompts next Monday. In the meantime, feel free to share your poetric creations with us!

Shoes

One of the things I love about reading is the ability to gain new perspectives and empathize with others, even when they’re fictional. I especially love books that let me safely experience things outside of my comfort zone. As a public librarian my path crosses with a wide variety of people, and while it can be easy to make assumptions, I read a few books this year that I felt gave me a new understanding of the people around me.

NONFICTION 

3.27 EducatedEDUCATED
By Tara Westover
(2018)

People come to the Library for a variety of reasons and with a variety of backgrounds. This book reminds me that, what at first glance can appear to be rudeness, laziness, or a lack of cleanliness, can be due to a variety of legitimate reasons I know nothing about. Tara Westover was born in the mountains of Idaho to survivalist parents and didn’t set foot in a classroom until she was 17-years-old. Attending college was different from any experience she’d ever had, and her unique past and limited understanding of the world, history, and social norms made her experiences and accomplishments all the more extraordinary. Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction, and this powerful memoir is just that.

 

3.27 The 57 BusTHE 57 BUS 
By Dashka Slater
(2017)

I’ve had the opportunity to take books to teens in juvenile detention, meeting several who dreamed of a life better than the one they were living. I’ve also met people with a variety of gender identities, struggling to figure out who they are. This book follows the lives of two teens in with similar struggles, something I’ve never dealt with, and found very eye opening. One day on the 57 bus, for no particular reason aside from thinking it could be funny, Richard set Sasha’s skirt on fire. He thought it would smolder a bit and surprise Sasha, like a practical joke, but instead it erupted in a ball of flames, severely burning Sasha’s body. It was treated as a hate crime since Sasha is agender, and Richard was facing life imprisonment. Using her background in journalism, Slater covers the lives and decisions of both teens leading up to the incident, and how both lives were heartbreakingly altered.

 

FICTION 

3.27 An Absolutely Remarkable ThingAN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING
By Hank Green
(2018)

I met one of my favorite YouTubers this year and was amazed at how normal she was without a camera in hand. In an age of social media influencers it can be easy to idolize people and feel like you know them without actually meeting them. In this contemporary sci-fi novel, mysterious giant statues appear overnight around the world, and April May goes viral for being in a YouTube video about the first one. What does becoming an overnight celebrity do to a person? How does social media change our perception of reality? This book explores those questions in a way that feels genuine and personal, probably because the author is a social media influencer himself. If you follow someone who makes their living on social media, this book can be eye opening. 

 

3.27 Sea WitchSEA WITCH 
By Sarah Henning
(2018)

If you’ve seen the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, odds are you have a pretty negative opinion of the Sea Witch. Henning spins the original Hans Christian Andersen tale a little differently, focusing on the origin of the Sea Witch, and only introducing the Little Mermaid at the very end where the original tale begins. It’s hard to not feel compassion for the Sea Witch when you understand her background and why she made the decision to take the Little Mermaids voice in exchange for legs. While Disney’s Sea Witch is an archetypal villain, Henning humanizes her and turns her into a sympathetic and multifaceted character that feels more realistic. If you want your perception of a fictional character to take a 180° turn, this is the book to do it. 

 

3.27 Warm BodiesWARM BODIES 
By Isaac Marion
(2011)

Okay, I can’t say I’ve ever met a zombie, but if a zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, I want the zombies to be like the ones in WARM BODIES. The vast majority of the book is spent inside R’s head, listening to his internal dialogue and seeing the changed world through his eyes. It’s quite philosophical for a zombie book, which is why it’s on my list. R has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listing to Frank Sinatra. When he decides to let one girl live and keep her safe from the undead, his life death will change forever. This is a funny, scary, and moving take on the classic Romeo and Juliet story.

 

So, if you want to expand your horizons this year, exercise your empathy, and perhaps get out of your comfort zone through the safety of a book, I would highly recommend any of these titles.

 

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