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The Words Are Maps: Poetry Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture

Celebrate Poetry!

adrienne rich

As April comes to a close, our staff reflects on poets and poetry we love–and celebrate–all year long.

A poem and illustration from "Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It"

A poem and illustration from “Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It”

Laura’s Pick

I knew from the moment this hilarious little collection landed in my lap (recommended by a friendly fellow Children’s staffer from a neighboring town) that it must be my selection this month: Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Treat yourself to the delightful backstory of this style of poetry (detailed on pages 22 and 23), devised by the doctor and poet William Carlos Williams and involving stolen plums. It’s hard to pick one favorite from the bunch, so here are two. Notice the wonderfully similar structure of each:

laura pick

(I will not be reciting that last one at my next story time.)

So next time you have to apologize for something that may or may not have been your fault…take a deep breath and compose a poem.

 meena alexandernaomi

One of Erik Blegvad's beautiful illustrations from "Hurry, Hurry..."

One of Erik Blegvad’s beautiful illustrations from “Hurry, Hurry…”

Gail’s Pick

Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear, by N.M. Bodecker

If you find an entire collection of poetry a bit weighty, try PPL’s lighthearted picture book, “Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear”. The book consists of a single poem written by N M Bodecker. Illustrations by Erik Blegvad perfectly capture the sly, witty tone of the poem, as Mary rushes about trying to finish all the chores the narrator thinks she should do before winter sets in. A great read-aloud for kids.


Lisa’s Pick

My pick is a classic: “My Lost Youth” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It’s such a beautiful description of Portland, and so many places named in the poem are still here.


Hazel’s Pick

Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry, by Kenneth Koch

Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is an absolute goldmine of kids’ writing that boasts some of the funniest and wisest snippets of poetry I’ve ever read. Some are totally goofy and meandering, some are sharp and sincere, and many combine elements of both. A personal favorite:

Leda M

Sonya’s Pick

“Wilderness” by Jim Morrison

This poem really spoke to me when I was in my early twenties.

What do you want?

Is it music?

We can play music.

But you want more.

You want something & someone new.

Am I right?

Of course I am.

Yes…I wanted more. I wanted it all. But I really had no idea what that was. These verses seemed so romantic and adventurous to me.

Let’s recreate the world.

The palace of conception is burning.

 jim morrison

joy harjosylvia plath

Thaddeus’ Pick (in verse!)

“r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r,” by e.e. cummings


Raminta’s Pick

Fireflies, by Rabindranath Tagore

I grew up in a very literary household full of thousands of books. Over the years, bits and pieces of these books flit in and out of my thoughts. My mother must have had a copy of Rabindranath Tagore’s Fireflies, as one poem has remained with me to this day:


If you enjoy Eastern poetry such as Rumi, I would highly recommend spending an afternoon with Tagore.

Claudia Rankine(1)

Elizabeth’s Picks

The BreakBeat Poets Anthology, Citizen: An American Lyric, Bastards of the Reagan Era, The Wild Hundreds, Voyage of the Sable Venus, Notes on the Assemblage, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.  Many of the powerful new poems I’ve seen at the library in the last year are in collections that offer voice after voice of poets reflecting on themes of racism, incarceration, loss, social justice and injustice, history, society, and the individual. And more.

A selection of poetry in 2016: The Wild Hundreds: Poetry.


malcolm london

Patti’s Pick

“Waiting,” by Raymond Carver

One of my favorite poems is Raymond Carver’s Waiting, from his collection All of Us. I first heard it at a friend’s wedding, and it seemed to perfectly describe the twists and turns that lead us to where we’re supposed to be.


fiona sze lorrainYusef(1)

Samantha’s Picks

My first pick is Drummer Hodge by Thomas Hardy. One of the reasons I like this poem so much is that pays homage to the unknown soldier, and couples the unknowingness of death with eternal aspects of life and the world. Hardy’s work was also a major influence on Dylan Thomas.

Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front is one of those poems I read when I’m aghast with the world. It seems to offer a guide to living, inspiring, actionable words that help the reader to remember what is really important in life. Listening more than speaking, being happy just noticing the movements of the earth, not needing dollars and fancy vacations to be at peace.

Finally, “Shake the Dust” by Anis Mojgani is another inspiring poem for me. I strongly encourage it to be experienced aurally, like this performance here. Mojgani is so expressive, and his words instill confidence, hope, and faith that every human experience has value, purpose, and importance. It gives me the same kind of foot-tapping excitement that a piece of upbeat music brings, and the phrase “shake the dust” is one I have come to hold as a special mantra for being fearless when I feel the most timid.

wendell berry

Kelley’s Pick

Completely unrelated to anything Teen, my choice for a favorite poet would be Jim Harrison, who died last month. Many people know him for his novels (e.g. Legends of the Fall), but I love his collections of poetry; they’re beautiful, rough and honest. Harrison also collaborated throughout his life with the wonderful artist Russell Chatham, whose paintings adorn the covers of Harrison’s books.


stacie cassarinoross gay

Eileen’s Pick

Good poetry is a subjective label.  Sometimes it isn’t the poem itself that touches us, but the associations it has.

My mother passed away in April, five years ago.  Standing by her grave in the mid-May blossom-filled Mount Auburn cemetery where John Ciardi, James Russell Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are spending eternity, my sisters and I shared recollections of our kind mother, Marjorie.

The older of my two sisters told the story of her second grade school assignment:  select, memorize and recite a poem, a process that had bogged down at “select,” driving her seven-year-old self to the end of her tightly-wound perfectionist rope as the deadline approached.  In her trademark over-achieving fashion, she aimed way beyond necessity and expectations, fretting and sweating over pieces that were too long, too hard, too everything… until our mother, who always seemed to know how to make things better, offered an idea.  A poem that was not too long.  Not too serious.  Just the thing.

55 years later, in the cool of a spring morning, my sister recited that poem again:

The May 1895 issue of The Lark in which "The Purple Cow" first appeared.

The May 1895 issue of The Lark in which “The Purple Cow” first appeared.



The Purple Cow

(Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least.)

 By Gelett Burgess


I NEVER saw a Purple Cow; 

I never hope to See One; 

But I can Tell you, Anyhow, 

I’d rather See than Be One.


— The Lark number 1, May 1, 1895



That is how it came to be that three middle-aged sisters felt the power of poetry; four lines of silliness in the midst of grief.

Not too long.  Not too serious.  Just the thing, like all good poetry.


As always, thanks for reading.

juan felipe herrara


Capes Optional – Does Not Compute

posted: , by Thaddeus Moriarty
tags: Programs & Events | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens

cyborgWelcome back to Capes Optional, dear eyeballers of the blogosphere, where we, for one library, welcome our new robotic overlords. It’s Maker Fair time again at PPL, and tomorrow our halls and meeting rooms will be filled with exhibits and demonstrations of all genres and interests: book coloring, lock picking, coffee brewing, duct tape crafting, candle making, and absolutely everything in between. It’s a perfect day to spelunk into the bottomless depths of creativity or to discover a new hobby.

In keeping with the Maker spirit, I have found an arms-full of books that you can find on our shelves based around robotics and the sciences, and I think you’ll find something of interest no matter who you might be. Allons-y!


Chobits, Vol.1
by Clamp

chobitsChobits can be found in our Teen section, and is a popular manga and anime from Japan of the “ecchi” style, meaning playfully sexual without being explicit or adult-only. In Chobits, there exist what are called “persocoms,” computers that can do everything your smartphone can except look like people and walk around with you while they do it. The story is about Hideki, a young man who can’t hold a job, can’t get into school, and certainly can’t afford a persocom, who stumbles upon one of the robots in a trash heap. The beautiful persocom is named Chi, and as Hideki finds out, is more than just a regular computer-girl.


Rust: Visitor in the Field
by Royden Lepp

rustRust: Visitor in the Field, as well as other books in the Rust series, is set on a small farm that could fit onto any Central- to Northern-Maine hillside…until Jet Jones flies through the barn, a jetpack on his back and being chased by a 30-foot-tall robot killing-machine that the country had used to fight a war with decades earlier. From there, the action and intrigue never stop. Lepp’s illustrations are, aptly, all the color of rust, but are wide and expressive, telling the story of a farmer, his family, and the robotic war that won’t ease its grip on humanity, with marvelous success. Rust can be found in the children’s section at PPL.


The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1: Science. Bad.
written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Pitarra

mp1Are you as much a fan of alternate histories as I am? Then The Manhattan Projects will be right up your alley. Set in an alternate World War II, the graphic novel series follows Joseph Oppenheimer, evil twin of real-life American scientist Robert Oppenheimer, conducting secret military science experiments under the titular “Manhattan Projects.” Any follower of history will recognize the project as that which developed the atomic bomb, but would probably not be familiar with FDR being artificial intelligence, Japan having teleporting robot soldiers, Doctor Einstein being an alcoholic sadist, and aliens being eaten by the Army to gain knowledge of space travel. Sound interesting? Pick up The Manhattan Projects.


Descender, Vol 1: Tin Stars
written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen

descenderJeff Lemire, writer of DC Comics’ critically acclaimed Animal Man and Marvel’s Old Man Logan, brings us Descender, a creator-owned comic about a young android trying to find where he fits in a big universe. TIM-21, or TIM for short, is a robot created to “entertain, protect, and assist in the education” of his human friend Andy. But TIM wakes up after ten years to find Andy missing and robots outlawed throughout the solar system; robotic, planet-sized monstrosities called Harvesters attacked the galaxy and destroyed entire civilizations, and a fearful population banned any mechanical intelligence as a result. But TIM isn’t a monster…is he? Descenders was just picked up by Sony Pictures to become a blockbuster movie, and you can read all about TIM and his robot dog Bandit right at the library before anyone else.


WWR, World War Robot
written by Ashley Wood and TP Louise, illustrated by Ashley Wood

wwrIt’s difficult for me to tell you the plot of World War Robot…because that plot is entirely up to you. World War Robot is a series of journal entries, letters, transcripts, and diaries of a fictional Great War that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, accompanied by beautifully rendered paintings by Ashley Wood. In the timeline of WWR, a group of fanatically-religious humans took over Earth, and those seeking refuge from the violent cult fled the planet to colonize Mars. Earth retaliated, and the Terrans and Martians, as they are called, go to war with robots at their sides. The story is beautifully left with gaps in the narration and told only through “primary documents” of the time, and the paintings are breathtaking. A look back at a tragic time in one version of our past, and one not impossible to see in our future.


iron manThese are just the beginning! For superheroes that tie-in to our Maker theme, be sure to go look up DC’s Cyborg and Firestorm, and, of course, Marvel’s Iron Man.

Science and robotics are all the rage in 2016, with new advancements in artificial intelligence and the newest iGadget always front-page news, and what better way to immerse yourself in the spirit of creation than to go to the Maker Fair on April 23rd? I’ll be there, and I hope that you will too. Until next month, chums, may your screens of death never be blue and may your Roomba not try to take over the world.






Capes Optional – The World’s Finest

posted: , by Thaddeus Moriarty
tags: Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens


It’s a bird! It’s a plane!


Nope, just Capes Optional (sorry).

This week we are all jazzed up about two of the greatest comic book super heroes ever drawn: Batman and Superman.Regardless of who you think would win in a fight (which is totally Batman because, let’s face it, even though Superman could rip Batman in half he wouldn’t – and the Dark Knight would never let a weakness such as morality hinder him. But I digress…), Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and their dynamic alter-egos have been wowing us for over 80 years, and now meet in a blockbuster movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The movie hits theaters today, but what if a movie’s not your thing? Do you prefer to read about your heroes on paper? Here are some wonderful graphic novels from the shelves of PPL that explore the unbreakable (if not sometimes volatile) relationship between the Last Son of Krypton and the Caped Crusader, and not always in ways that you would expect.


51WJHLSFePL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Batman-Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World
written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Jae Lee

This graphic novel is a collection of DC Comics’ monthly publication Batman-Superman, which focuses on the adventures of the titular heroes without the rest of the Justice League interfering. This first volume tells a version of the two meeting for the first time (while Superman is still wearing a T-shirt and jeans) and getting whisked away to Earth-2 where they meet fully established and heroic versions of themselves. The story is a little strange (as alternate universes are wont to be), but Jae Lee’s iconic artwork, as seen on the cover, is a joyous adventure to explore in itself.


51N6dG-Ok2L__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1
written by Tom Taylor, illustrated by Jheremy Raapack

This dark series of graphic novels (as well as the accompanying video game of the same name) is one of the more amazing alternate Batman/Superman relationships to have come out in recent memory. In the universe of Injustice, Superman is tricked by the Joker into destroying that which matters most to him: his wife Lois Lane, their unborn child, and Metropolis itself. Driven to inexorable suffering, Superman declares that crime will no longer be tolerated anywhere in the world, and appoints himself a de facto emperor with a super-powered police force. And who could possibly stand up against this tyrannical, unstoppable dictator? Batman, of course!


61hYGO3Y0sL__SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin
written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Jim Lee

Bylined by two of the most experienced and beloved writers and artists in comics, Justice League, Vol. 1 was the flagship graphic novel of DC Comics’ 2011 “The New 52” re-launch, and doesn’t disappoint in any way. Telling the story of how the Justice League was formed, the heroes were remade hipper and younger for a  younger, hipper generation of comic readers (for better or for worse). Young Superman is brash and overconfident; his first words to the ever-grizzled Batman after throwing the Green Lantern through a wall: “So…what can you do?” The pencil work by Jim Lee is exquisite.


51fK4C0c73L__SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Kingdom Come
written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Alex Ross

Kingdom Come is on this humble blog-writer’s short list of the greatest graphic novels ever written. The story tells of the next generation of superheroes who fill the void left behind by the retirement of the Justice League, and the catastrophic events that pit old against young, mentor against pupil, hero against hero. Superman, grey haired and living as an outcast on a Midwestern farm, and Batman, crippled and broken (both mentally and physically) from his decades of violence, are fleshed out beautifully by the all-time writer Waid, and Alex Ross’ illustrations are so full of “Easter eggs” and homages to past comics that the book actually has a list of his allusions in the back. A true masterpiece, and a must-own for any graphic novel lover.


61fbfTYqVCL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood
written by Brian Azzarello, illustrated by Cliff Chiang

What, you thought that I would ignore the amazing Gal-Gadot-as-Wonder-Woman cameo in the new movie? Wonder Woman, the feminist icon and heroic equal to Batman and Superman, has had myriad accomplished writers over the years, but few have left her with the critical acclaim as has veteran scribe Brian Azzarello. In this version of Wondy, she discovers that her birth has been obfuscated from her entire life: she is actually the daughter of a god, and not just any god, but Zeus himself. As the ramifications of her divine discovery threaten to shatter her reality, Diana Prince also has outside troubles to worry about: not all the gods are pleased with her newly-uncovered lineage.


I, for one, cannot wait to see Batman v Superman in theaters. But there is so much more to Bruce, Clark, and Diana than what you can find in a 3-hour film. Check out these books at PPL, and for some more alternate-universe adventures outside the library’s Fortress of Solitude, be sure to look up Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Batman: In Darkest Knight by Mike W. Barr. It’s been more than 80 years since Bob Kane and Bill Finger brought us Batman, and Siegel and Shuster invented the Man of Steel, yet their legacies continue to shine on today. It’s the perfect time to pick up a good graphic novel and get lost in the adventures.

Up, up, and away!

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