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The Worth of Conversation

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture | Government | News

What is the worth of informal, but focused, conversation? What do we gain from talking to each other across our differences, about something we hold in common?

Research indicates that loneliness is a very common social problem and puts individuals at risk for health problems.  Loneliness & Mortality Risks (read this review article in the New Republic)

In contrast, the following video from the Greater Good Science Center suggests that developing “cross-group relationships” is great for our health and well-being!

 

One of the best ways to develop more relationships and relationships with people different from us is by participating in public conversations… and we have some great invitations for you! All programs are free and open to the public.

1) On November 6th we continue a series offered in collaboration with the  Maine Humanities Council on “Creating the Communities We Wish For.”  These small group, neighborhood conversations feature a great facilitator (Dr. Anna Bartel), a great poem, and fabulous conversation.   REGISTER HERE

·         November 6th at the YMCA in Portland, 11:30am – 1:00pm
·         November 20th here at the Main Branch, 11:30am – 1:00pm
·         December 18th at Riverton, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

2) On November 6th we also begin our film series, in collaboration with Maine Humanities Council, entitled “Muslim Journeys.”   This series is part of a national project and will include discussion facilitated by Reza Jalali.  The series includes films on November 13th and 20th – all begin at 6:30pm.

3)  On November 25th we offer the second of our Portland Public Conversations, in collaboration with Lift360 (formerly the Institute for Civic Leadership) – this one will focus on “Participating in Portland” and will include a resource fair – if you have a project that engages volunteers or civic participation and you’d like to share information about it, please be in touch with me simmons@portland.lib.me.us .  All are encouraged to come reflect on the value of engagement and the challenges associated with participating in our communities – November 25th 7:30am coffee/ 8:00am program start.   Our final date in the series is December 9th and will focus on “Picturing Portland” – a visioning session for 2015 and beyond!


It’s still 2014. We’re still reading good books.

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture
An illustrated quotation that says "We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced."

A  pertinent quotation from “I Am Malala.”

A photograph of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzi.

Malala Yousafzi.

It’s still 2014. And we’re still reading good books. (Books that just happen to have been written by women: see my earlier report on the Vida Count and #readwomen2014 here).

In a year of special focus on reading women, it’s meaningful to hear this month that 17-year-old Malala Yousafzi has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 (shared with Kailash Satyarthi). Yousafzi’s memoir, “I Am Malala,” tells her incredible story as a passionate advocate for education for girls. Find it in print at PPL here, or check it out as an ebook!

A rich crop of other memoirs and essays are being published in the last months of 2014. As a City of Readers team member here at the library, I’m engaged with many of the conversations being sparked around new (and old) books. Some issues are timeless: is a writer-who-happens-to-be-a-woman a woman writer, or just…a writer? Authors Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser tackle these and other ideas in a recent New York Times Book Review article, “Is This a Golden Age for Women Essayists?”

To help you celebrate the Golden Age, here are some of Portland Public Library’s own New Nonfiction releases. Click on the titles below for more info:

downloadThe opposite of loneliness Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meghan Daum, “The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion”

Lena Dunham, “Not That Kind of Girl”

Roxane Gay,  “Bad Feminist”

Amy Poehler, “Yes Please”

Marina Keegan, “The Opposite of Loneliness”

Interestingly…the only woman shortlisted for the National Book Award in Nonfiction this year is Roz Chast, for “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”

If you hop on MaineCat with your PPL library card, you can request other hit essay collections from 2014:  Rebecca Solnit’s “Men Explain Things to Me,”  or Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams.” Pick them up at the PPL Branch of your choice.

things-that-are

The Year of Magical Thinkingmen we reaped

 

 

 

 

 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me

 

 

Even more ideas for recent or classic essays/nonfiction/memoirs: Zadie Smith’s “Changing My Mind,” Sloane Crosley’s “How Did You Get This Number,” Elif Batuman’s “The Possessed,”  Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” bell hooks’ “Appalachian Elegy,” Marilynne Robinson’s “When I Was a Child I Read Books,”  Rachel Maddow’s “Drift,” Jesmyn Ward’s “Men We Reaped,” Dorothy Allison’s “Two or Three Things I Know For Sure,” Arundhati Roy’s “The Cost of Living,” Maya Angelou’s “Mom & Me & Mom,” Katie Roiphe’s “In Praise of Messy Lives,” Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Jennifer Finney Boylan’s “She’s Not There,” Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation,” Anne Carson’s “Plainwater,” Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” Ntozake Shange’s “Lost in Language and Sound: Or, How I Found My Way to the Arts,” Annie Dillard’s “Teaching a Stone to Talk,” Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” Amy Leach’s “Things That Are,” and Mindy Kaling’s  “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And other concerns.”

This list should stop somewhere…but it feels like a good thing that it could go on and on! Happy reading.

(For more recommendations, to ask questions, or to request books and other materials over the phone, please contact your branch, the Reader’s Advisory Desk at the Main Library at 871-1700 ext. 705, or the Reference Desk at the Main Library at 871-1700 ext. 725).


Whose Port This Is, I Think I Know: PPL & Local Poetry in October

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Programs & Events | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture
A picture of Megan Grumbling reading one of her poems aloud at the library.

Portland poet Megan Grumbling at the Port City Poems reading.

Last Tuesday, October 7, a group of local poets drew a crowd of 91 to the Rines Auditorium. Anita Clearfield, Wil Gibson, Megan Grumbling, Claire Hersom, Annaliese Jakimides, Michele Leavitt, John McVeigh, Edward J. Rielly, Betsy Sholl, David Stankiewicz, Sally Woolf-Wade, and Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel read from their poetry. They were introduced by Marcia F. Brown, Portland Poet Laureate and editor of the anthology Port City Poems. It was an evening full of thoughtfulness and humor, celebrating Portland but also touching on other themes.

For those of you who couldn’t be there, I took notes.

Ed Rielly read his poem, “The Sea Dogs Come Out of the Corn.” The poet muses at a baseball game. “ ‘Is this heaven?’  I ask my wife, joking…‘No, it’s Portland, Maine.’ ” One of Wil Gibson’s poems was written as a love letter to Portland. “I miss your freckles,” Wil Gibson read aloud (addressing spurned Illinois, a former home) “but Portland, she is different. She is the most amazing, attentive lover…I have the scratches on my back to prove it.”

An image of Sally Woolf-Wade reading a poem out loud in front of an audience.

Sally Woolf-Wade read poetry on island life.

Other images of Portland rose, as sweetly and sharply, out of the readings. Megan Grumbling’s poem, “Landing,” evoked the golden light caught in the curved windows of a staircase at the Portland Museum of Art, a place to return to in deep winter. One of Claire Hersom’s poems spoke to a favorite wharf-haunt: J’s Oyster Bar. John McVeigh paid homage to the horses that pulled the old engines (“The spokes of the wheel are a blur”) of the Portland Fire Department in 1912. Later, David Stankiewicz’s Saint Augustine-inspired poetry moved the audience from Bailey Island’s Cribstone Bridge to travels on the Downeaster: “If I sit very still, might the conductor overlook my transgression?”

Annaliese Jakimides reads her poetry in front of a seated crowd.

Annaliese Jakimides before the crowd.

The poetry that resonated could be both beautiful and stark, as in Michele Leavitt’s excerpt from a cycle of poems on Hepatitis C. Or the poems imparted unapologetic knowledge: what comes to us may come as a surprise. “Because,” Anita Clearfield noted, “what happiness have we ever had that we asked for?”

And there was laughter, as the poets touched on religion, on menopause imagined or real, on the Old Port…“At last I’m old and wrinkled, celibate and wise,” read Michele Leavitt, tongue-in-cheekily. “I keep trying to write these spiritual poems that won’t be obnoxious,” quipped Betsy Sholl. The evening ended more seriously, with Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel’s poem on Alexander Hamilton. “I am afraid to do as Alexander Hamilton did: predict the future.” Nonetheless, Wrobel noted: “I think I know which duel to fight.”

I walked home that night through the city, thinking of Wil Gibson’s words: “Portland: she is the family I always wanted.”

More poetry coming up in Portland and at PPL:

Port City Poems reader Megan Grumbling’s verse-in-spoken-opera “Persephone in the Late Anthropocene” will be performed (along with 2 other poetry-performance teams) live at Congress Square Park on Wednesday, October 15 at 6 p.m. Readers Wil Gibson and John McVeigh are both involved with Port Veritas, which organizes educational outreach and weekly poetry slams in Portland.  Wes McNair will speak on his new book of poetry, “The Lost Child,” at the Main Library on Friday, October 17.

You can also check out some of the library’s recent poetry additions!

We recommend: Eliza Griswold’s “I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan,” Patricia Lockwood’s “Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals,” a 2014 collection from James Baldwin , or the unstoppable Mary Oliver’s latest, “Blue Horses.” And just for fun? Try Poems That Make Grown Men Cry.

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