April is National Poetry Month. We Heart cloudLibrary. And: National Library Workers Day is April 21. Libraries Work Because We Do.
Our Staff Picks today are posted from far, though for weeks we’ve tried so hard to stay close to each other and to our community.
After the library closed in March, we found our footing as soon as we could. All of our library workers—at the Main Library, Burbank, Peaks, Riverton, our Annex and our Bookmobile—are full of so much resourcefulness and creativity and dedication and thoughtfulness and care. So many staff members talked about all the individuals and kids and families who come to the library who they were missing and thinking of, just wanting them to be okay. Each week in the last month we reached out and created new ways to connect with our community and with each other at the same time that the world has utterly changed.
On a slow day at home in the heart of winter, months ago, I made a simple poster for National Library Workers Day, hoping to make a zillion copies of it for April 21 and hand it out to all of my colleagues: our incomparably hard-working shelving and substitute staff and all of the front-line-and-behind-the-scenes heroes. I didn’t know what lay ahead. The poster has one of the mottos of National Library Workers Day on it: Libraries Work Because We Do. And something held as dear to my heart, too, a message I used to love seeing posted on a fellow worker’s office door: Libraries For the People.
I’m not sure what’s next for Staff Picks, with all that has changed. For now we look at poetry on the internet, new favorites from the cloudLibrary, and what you might add to your To-Be-Read and To-Be-Borrowed piles.
As ever, thank you (so much) for reading.
Videos from the Favorite Poem Project archive.
Poetry Picks & More
April is National Poetry Month, and I can’t think of a better time to be reminded of what a sense of solace and form of connection poetry can provide. It has always been a grounding force to start my day but feels like a necessary prescription now more than ever.
Poets.org has always offered a Poem-of-the-Day, and they are now also doing a “Shelter in Poems” feature, asking users to share poems that give them solace and “actionable energy” during this time. I’ve been enjoying reading both the variety of poems and the commentary from people around the world. The Poetry Society of America also has a new daily feature, “Reading in the Dark,” in which poets share the poems to which they turn in difficult times. So as you shelter in place, shelter in poetry!
I also recently discovered the Favorite Poem Project, which was started by Robert Pinsky in 1997 with an open call for Americans to share themselves reading and talking about their favorite poems. A Massachusetts construction worker reading “Song of Myself.” The daughter of Cambodian refugees reading Langston Hughes. I first hit play on “Poem” by Frank O’Hara… “Lana Turner has collapsed! / I was trotting along and suddenly / it started raining and snowing…” Memories of laughingly repeating this poem with friends during middle-of-the-night poetry workshops in my early 20s, the words now in the voice of a glassblower from Seattle who knows them by heart. It took my breath a little, this lifeline of poetry amidst our new daily isolation.
Nora says it best. Poetry has been giving me life, too, all that’s being created even now, like Juan Felipe Herrera’s Social Distancing. In the first week of April Nora sent me a million wonderful ideas (and Sarah Mari weighed in with a great Sarah Kay spoken word performance) and we put togetherAll Poems Considered: Poetry eResources. Check out Danez Smith and Franny Choi and their epic podcast VS, all the sweet and powerful readings and videos out there, and find a book and a marker and make your own erasure poem. Erasure poems resonate: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all that’s revealed when so much changes, the revelations that can be tender or that offer starker truths.
One of my favorite books to recommend for a family read aloud is Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, available through cloudLibrary as an audiobook.
This National Book Award Finalist is a hilarious, mostly tall tale, with interweaving stories and an unlikely cast of characters. There’s 12–year–old Chad Brayburn, on a mission to save his mom’s cafe (and her sugar pies) from a greedy developer and a world-class alligator wrestler, bent on turning the swamp into a theme park. And Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers and new scouts, headquartered in an abandoned 1940 DeSoto, recruited to protect the swamp. Not to mention feral hogs and an illusive bayou bigfoot. It’s a rollicking tale, but with themes of conservation, family and loss.
If the story doesn’t sound intriguing enough, country singer/musician, Lyle Lovett gives a smooth, third person narration to create an even greater family listening experience.
The Vanderbeekers to the Rescueby Karina Yan Glaser, the third book in The Vanderbeekers series, will not disappoint. Available in cloudLibrary, this book is sure to be a family read together favorite. The Vanderbeeker children have really made a mess of things this time and it looks nearly impossible that they will be able to save their mother’s baking business. But never fear, dear reader, Karina Yan Glaser has crafted yet another tale where working together and asking for help when necessary is always the right decision and family finds a way in the end.
During this tumultuous time The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue is a lovely light story that has adventure, animals, delicious cookie ideas, and a ton of heart.
I’m going to go with YA fiction pickIn the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, a former Maine resident.The book tells the tale of Ruth Robb, a Jewish teenager who moves from New York City to Atlanta in 1958 after the unexpected death of her father. ThereRuth quickly discovers that if she wants to be popular, she can’t be Jewish. She decides to hide her religion to stay friends with the A-list crowd and the handsome popular boy, David. Then a violent hate crime rocks the small community. Ruth suddenly finds herself having to choose: between one of the two worlds she has cultivated for herself, and between what is easy and what is right.
I heard Caplan speak about In The Neighborhood of True. Though the book is set more than sixty years in the past, there are stark comparisons to events that are happening today, wrapped up in a bit of history that not many know about and a teenage character who is frustratingly realistic.
Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginningwas a National Book Award-winning work in 2016. He met Jason Reynolds at the ceremony — he was also nominated for his book, Ghost — and the two became friends. When Kendi later though about who should adapt his book for young readers, he immediately thought of Jason because of his ability to connect and engage younger readers.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and Youis Jason Reynolds’s remix that gives young readers an approachable and accessible way to examine the country’s legacy of racism, and how it impacts our lives today. Young readers already know and love Reynolds’s books, and now they have the author speaking directly to them about difficult and important concepts. He emphasizes that this is NOT a history book, or at least, not your typical history book. It’s aimed at middle schoolers and high schoolers, but I definitely encourage teachers, parents, and anyone interested in Kendi’s work to borrow a copy. If at all possible, give the audiobook a listen — Reynolds narrates himself and his rich voice and strong pacing make him the audiobook all the more compelling. He was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature this year, and knowing that he will be visiting and speaking with — and listening to — kids across the country gives me hope.
I am always on the lookout for my next true crime fix and if you are too, look no further. You literally can’t make this stuff up! I had to keep checking while reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startupto confirm it was indeed nonfiction and I had not accidentally stumbled into the crime fiction section when I picked this book out.
For fans of Catch and Killand I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, here is the page-turner you’ve been craving: the scandalous, white-collar true crime story of the rise and downfall of Silicon Valley company Theranos, skillfully recounted by investigative journalist John Carrreyrou of the Wall Street Journal.
Prepare to be shocked as you meet Elizabeth Holmes, Stanford dropout and privileged daughter of a wealthy, well-connected family, and discover how shewas able to raise billions of dollars over several years to produce and market her amazing invention: a small, portable blood–testing machine called the Edison that could run several blood tests on only a drop of blood. There was only one small problem that she didn’t share with investors: she could never actually get this invention to work.
This best-selling book has been included by NPR, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal on their Best Books of the Year lists, and for good reason. Leave it all behind for a few hours as you are swept up in this outrageous true story of corruption and intrigue in Silicon Valley.
A page from “Pokko and the Drum” by Matthew Forsythe.
In this deceptively simple-seeming picture book, we follow the adventures of Pokko, a young frog, and her parents, who make a big mistake when they give her a drum. After all, they’re just a quiet family who lives in a mushroom. And Pokko simply can NOT stay quiet with that drum. But is it a mistake after all? Deadpan humor, a beautiful color palette, and a story that works equally well for children and adults. For any parent who has ever realized the gift they just gave their child might have unintended consequences and for any child who’s ever marched to the beat of their own drum, this story is a winner.
Full disclosure—The two authors, librarians in San Diego County, are acquaintances of mine. But I don’t think that has influenced how much I adore this book (at least, not too much). Historical recipes are one of my favorite niche genres, and historical recipes from books? Even better. The authors have adapted the recipes from vintage cookbooks of the March family’s era and updated them for modern kitchens. Combining quotes and illustrations from Little Women, helpful cooking tips, and lovely food photography, this is a must read for Little Women fans everywhere. And if you love food inspired literature as much as I do you can also check out Bergrstrom and Osada’sblog 36 eggs, in which they explore recipes from all kinds of works of food-filled fiction, like Anne of Green Gables and the Harry Potter series.
As Brooke Gladstone observes in her introduction to Presidential Campaign Posters, campaign posters are a tool to enlist voters, condensing complicated policies and issues. Like Japanese manga, if there are fewer details in an image we can identify with the candidates and their message more easily. At the same time, the most effective campaign poster of every era leaves as much as possible to the voter’s imagination.
In the coming months we’ll witness the Presidential Campaign Posters of the 2020 elections: you may enjoy this book as an interesting history compiled by the Library of Congress.
Back in February, in the midst of winter doldrums, I checked out Animal Crossing: New Leaf. As soon as I had the game in my hands I found myself completely hooked. My first focus was on stocking the museum with fossils. I honed in so acutely on this that the villagers began to complain that I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. I started to worry and overcompensated by visiting all of the people and bestowing them with all manner of gifts. Then the villagers began to complain that I wasn’t committed to the public works projects for the town. Eventually I had to do a routine update and I lost all of my progress just in the nick-of-time so that the game made its way back to the library before the due date. (Thank goodness.) The new version of Animal Crossing is set to release in April and the hype surrounding it has been real: I completely understand why.
Click to read the rest of Brian Doyle’s “An Leabhariann.”
Recently, dear friend and former PPL reference librarian Paul D’Alessandro sent this link to me. Like so many library workers he cannot, even in retirement, resist sharing with others what he finds in his own search for sustenance.
Brian Doyle’s essay hits every note with casual perfection. It explains why we library workers do what we do, why we care as much as we do. Its tidy packaging and sprawling spirit also explains why I read, always hoping to find just this sort gem. It requires little time (so short!) and I suspect I will read it again and again for the pure joy and sense of recognition it brings. I hope you like it too.
Greater Portland is a vibrant region, filled with creative and adventurous individuals. As a community, we are integral to one another, and the Library is integral to our community. Amidst this time of isolating during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we invite you to send us your thoughts from your individual point of view describing how you are living with the present social distancing measures. We may now be physically distant but let us remain socially connected.
How are you weathering the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic? Send your thoughts, poems, letters, diary entries, original artwork, doodles or comics (300 words or less, please), to email@example.com
We’ll share your submissions here on our library blog and on our library social media. Archives provide future generations a richer view of history, first-person documentation of our times and lives. This is an opportunity to document our own histories for future historians and social scientists trying to make sense of it a hundred years from now!
The Fine Print: By submitting content through this email address you are granting Portland Public Library permission to disseminate, preserve, and use that content in connection with its educational and research mission, including promotional purposes, in all media in perpetuity. You retain ownership of and copyright in the material you share, in this particular project & collection. Our hope is to continue this project throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning March 2020. We will collect individual submissions, actively seek out relevant material for preservation from other sources, and create opportunities for our community to participate once we re-open our buildings to the public. When possible, please include the following information with your submission: your name, date of creation, your age, your location (town or neighborhood), how you self-identify (gender, identity, race, tribal affiliation, cultural affiliation, etc).
By submitting material, you voluntarily agree to contribute this item to the Isolating Together archive, affirming that (1) you are 13 years of age or older, and (2) you are the creator of this item. Exceptions: This item is in the public domain, or you’re a parent or guardian submitting this item on behalf of your child.
After three months of quarantine during which we’d only seen our closest neighborhood friends from a distance, we had them over for dinner in our backyard. It was a warm spring evening. Their kids (5, 10, 12) and our kids (10, 12) played cornhole while we cooked and brought food out to the porch. We shared stories about the things in each of our lives that had become familiar that were completely unfamiliar to us before quarantine. Masks. Zoom. Telemarketers seeming kind and human. Daily talk about sickness and death. They’d biked over to our house so when dinner was over we all got on our bikes—all 9 of us—and biked through the dark and mostly empty streets of Deering Center to Evergreen cemetery. We rode right down the middle of the street, a critical mass, and when we reached Evergreen, we rode down to the ponds, got off our bikes, and in the long unmowed grass beside the ponds we watched hundreds of fireflies dance in the dark. It felt miraculous to see these little insects light themselves up. We all stood there in awe feeling grateful.
Yesterday I finally had my acupuncture appointment after more than two months of waiting. How great it feels, not only to be able to better manage my pain again but also to get out of the house for the first time (except for picking up my medications at CVS), beyond the building front stoop. Meanwhile, I’ve been crocheting a large blanket, a few rows a day. At the rate I am going, I will be half way through in a week or two! I am so looking forward to massage and to knitting with my friends again, in Congress Square Park …
What was your name, number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten? Was it Akmed or Chunhua, Mustafa or Mike? Did your friends call you Anna Maria or George? Were you mother-blessed “Emma” or street-baptized Blade?
Were you scared as you died alone in a hospital hall, untended among too many to save?
Maybe you got a too-scarce ventilator, but though hovering, masked faces checked oxygen levels and monitors, could you hear the beeping stop? Did you see some of those faces cry?
Did you slip away in your room at home, your family afraid to touch, to kiss, to hold your trembling hand? Were you first of your family to go?
Were you unnamed on admittance? Was the street your home? Did you end up with a toe tag, boxed in wood, unknown, unmourned?
You, number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten, you’re lost to me here in tallies of countries. You shed an old story or stopped midway when you became a number.
Most important, dear human, please, say that you were loved, were loved before Corona took your name.
In mid-March, her memory-care home was declared off-limits to families, to keep residents safe from COVID-19.
She is a mother with a ravaged memory; we are her son and daughter-in-law.
Time slip-slides, elides. I wonder… when can we hug her again? who will we be to her with more memories gone?
Amid this strangeness, spring birdsong expands our soundscape, wildflowers flourish in the duff. It is easy to forget that as life continues, so does death. It happens like this: a 95-year-old woman has a quiet morning, then lunch. She lies down for a nap from which she doesn’t wake.
When we are driving in an unfamiliar city, we drive more slowly.
When we are reading an unfamiliar word, we read more slowly.
When we are making an unfamiliar recipe, we make more slowly.
When we are in new terrain, we are our most present selves.
Are we ever in new terrain right now.
It’s unsteadying terrain. But the presence we can bring to it is nothing short of holy.
There is no transformation without awareness, and this presence is a threshold to awareness. To notice what we’re missing from our ordinary life – the things that matter to us. To notice what we’re not missing from our ordinary life – the things that don’t matter to us. To reorganize our life, as much as possible, around the former and release, as much as possible, the later.
There is no insight without disorder.
So here we are in insight-rich terrain. And if there were a password to access it, I suspect it’d be something like goslowbegentle.
The buds on the tree Are talking to me they’ve Weathered worse winters before They’ve danced windier mornings Than last summer’s storm remember The fall the hurricane came it’s spring Here I stand in bloom again
Over the past 6+ weeks I’ve been through such a range of emotion. I’ve been sad, scared, angry, hopeful, despairing, and even happy at times. My daily routine has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 crisis, while my spouse continues to work a modified schedule. I’ve loved spending more time with my dogs and have gotten some projects done around the house but it feels like things are deteriorating across the country. I’m grateful to be living in a smaller city where I can get outside and where it’s not too crowded, but I don’t know what our country is going to look like on the other side of this. I’ve been so encouraged by the neighborly spirit I’ve experience from the people living nearby that I am doing my best to harness that hope for us to use as we think about how to rebuild our society and economy once we defeat this virus.
from Jessica E., of Portland ___________________________________________________________________
Tuesday 21 April 2020
As I sat in my makeshift home office with the window slightly cracked, I heard the sound of beeping horns. Is that a parade? Maybe it’s over! I ran into living room and told my mother that I had heard cars and horns! We looked out the picture window – nothing but the rain. I laughed and my eyes filled with tears. I told her I had thought that maybe it was a parade… I walked back to my home office. I allowed myself one sob – time to get back to work.
A woman discovers her husband is deep into the men’s rights movement. His verbal abuse escalates. Strangers on Twitter tell her to be careful as she leaves; they advise communicating and searching for resources on public library computers where records can be erased. They tell her to act as if he’s already tapped her e-mail and phone. Now the strangers praise a different woman who’s healthy, as far as she knows, but isolates as if she has COVID-19. How can you plan for the worst when it shifts guises? Where will the first woman go?
One, two, three… ACHOO!
Social distancing, boo-hoo-hoo!
Wash your hands and cover your face.
It’s coronavirus, so stay in place!
If I follow these golden rules,
then can I go back to school?
One, two, three… ACHOO!
Social distancing, boo-hoo-hoo!
All things considering, I’ve been very fortunate during this time. I’m developing an online business that supports artists who are also entrepreneurs. Curious to see how businesses evolve (or don’t) in this new climate. I’ve also finished writing a book of short fiction and look forward to finding it a home in this strange world. Forgiveness and prosperity have been at the forefront of my mind. Every day I’m learning how to balance hope and grief.
The irony of social distancing and enforced solitude is how much it has reinforced the truth of our deep connection to each other and to the natural world. In this country we pride ourselves on our individualism, and on the material benefits of competition, which to a great extent depend on extractions from nature. For the last several weeks, in contrast, we have engaged in loving interactions with our grandchildren and dear friends, remotely but meaningfully. And we have taken long walks in natural settings where it almost seems as if plants now have the benefit of more fresh air and animals have been liberated from their previous sequestration.
I speak for all PPL staff and Board when I say, “We miss seeing you.” We closed our locations to the public on March 14, which feels so long ago. Our staff is working at home. We are employing multiple collaborative tools to keep in touch. And we’re constantly building access for you to a wide variety of online activities and resources. It strikes me that, while we all focus on our physical distance, we are in higher need of social connection. And that’s how the Library has always been and will always be here for you.
Last year around this time we re-introduced PPL with a new brand that says boldly, proudly, and colorfully that the Library welcomes everyone and every story: to connect, to listen, to speak. At the Library, at the center of the community, we are used to gathering, to speaking on abundant topics, in various voices, to outcomes of all sorts. The Library stands tall as a place for all of the stories and the conversations that humans must have, as a community of communities and a demanding democracy.
Right now, PPLers are involved in many conversations around the city as organizations all want to drive in the same direction towards good health, safety, and a thriving society. We extend tremendous thanks to our health and emergency response workers. We are talking with the school system about how to keep young minds stimulated. Non-profit organizations are banding together to share knowledge, test ideas, attend to staff, and advocate for supports. The Chamber of Commerce and businesses are addressing moves, combining strength, and maximizing resources and supports. Arts and cultural organizations are working in unison to offer meaningful experiences online and attend to our artists. And, of course, we are talking with our patrons who are seeking answers and inspiration.
For now, we must speak virtually. Please use our free & amazing e-books and online resources. Join the staff in virtual events (coming soon!). Keep close on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (for Teens). Ask your questions to our librarians on email or chat. Stay socially connected with others, and we will all be better for it when we can re-open physically.
Sarah Campbell (working from home)