April is National Poetry Month and April 12-18 is National Library Week. So celebrate your local library and its positive contribution to your community while enjoying these recommended titles, including poetry and prose, as well as movies.
Sue – Circulation
Flying at Night, Poems 1965-1985 by Ted Kooser, 811.54 Koo
Ted Kooser grew up in Iowa and now lives in Nebraska. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004 to 2006. His poetry is firmly rooted in Midwestern values and way of life. He writes of the simple lives of Midwestern farmers, writing often of his grandparents or other ancestors and objects or heirlooms from the past. His poems brilliantly use metaphors and similes to make his words come to life and show the joy and wonder of ordinary life. I find his poetry soothing and beautiful. I am a country girl at heart and long for the kind of simple, rural life that his poems celebrate. In this volume of poetry, I feel you get the most out of the book by readings the poems as a whole, but if I had to pick one that I liked the most, I would pick “Flying at Night”, which compares the light of a galaxy with the light in a farmer’s yard, showing at the same time the enormity of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life, large or small. I also liked “A Quarter Moon Just Before Dawn” where Kooser uses the metaphor of the moon as an old woman, stooping to “pick up a star that she’s dropped in her garden.”
Collected Poems, 1951-1971 by A.R. Ammons, 811.54 Ammons
A.R. Ammons was an award-winning American poet, including a two-time winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. He was born to a tobacco farmer in 1926 and grew up in rural North Carolina. He passed away in 2001. His poetry is a warm affirmation of the beauty and wonder of nature and man’s relationship to nature. My favorite poem in this collection is “Eyesight”, in which a man is so busy that he misses the coming of spring. He laments to the mountains and they tell him that he can still catch spring if he travels further north, but it’s not that way with all things, some things if you miss them, they are gone forever. I like this poem because it reminds us to slow down and appreciate what is before us right now, whether it be the beauty of nature, our family, our friends, or anything else that may be lost and then it is too late.
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, 811.54 Sex
Anne Sexton had a very troubled life, which is reflected in her poetry. She suffered from mental illness, spent time in mental hospitals, and took her own life at age 45. Despite this, her work has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her poems are powerful and raw and speak of her personal struggles, as well as issues all of us face in our lives. My favorite poem of Sexton’s is “Courage”, which speaks of courage not as running into a burning building to save lives or something equally dramatic, but in many small moments over the course of our lives, such as a child riding a bike for the first time, a teenager surviving taunts of peers, adults surviving the death of loved ones, and the strength to face old age and all its indignities. It is a beautiful poem, very moving and inspirational.
A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd, New Fiction Todd
This is the 17th book in the Ian Rutledge series by the fine historical fiction author Charles Todd. The series begins in 1919 with Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector, returning to work following his service as an officer in World War I. What Rutledge is keeping a secret is that he returned from the war suffering from shell shock – today called post-traumatic stress disorder. In that time, soldiers suffering from this disorder were considered weak and were treated with contempt. During the war, Rutledge had a traumatic experience involving a Scottish soldier named Hamish under his command that led to Hamish’s death. Now Rutledge is haunted by the voice of Hamish in his head. Added to this, Rutledge’s boss dislikes him and treats him unfairly, which is why he has not been promoted, though he is an excellent detective with a strong history of solving difficult cases. This book is especially interesting because it takes us back in time to 1914, before the war began, and shows us Rutledge’s life pre-war and the last case he solved before he went to France. We meet some familiar characters from the series, including his fiance, whom we know later betrays him.
The book also explains how the war developed over the weeks and months following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the British people’s attitudes and fears about a possible war. For those who have read the whole series, this is a fascinating look at Rutledge before the war damaged him. If you are new to the series, you could read this one first, since it is chronologically first, or start with book one and work your way up to this one.
Mary – Youth Services
The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo and Jim Parsons, DVD Normal
The Normal Heart opens at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City in 1981. It follows writer and activist Ned Weeks as he struggles to understand and aggressively fight against the blind eye cast upon HIV/AIDS, and those who were dying from it. Little can precisely describe what the true events of the HIV/AIDS crisis were like, but this film gives more than a glimpse into the horror and rage of the times. With a brilliant cast of individuals like Jim Parsons to Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts, this film is unspeakably difficult to watch, but is one of the best I have seen. Although ultimately hopeful, The Normal Heart reflects the belief of its playwright and screenwriter, Larry Kramer, that in the arena of human rights, there is still so much more work that needs to be done.
The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, New DVD Theory
If there is anything quite sparkling and dazzling to the Hollywood eye at the moment, it is the subject of The Genius. If the individual was the “tortured” type, well, throw in a brownie point. Stephen Hawking definitely had his fair share of challenges, and is quite the colossal mind, but I think what The Theory of Everything uniquely captures – unlike other genius-trope films – is Stephen Hawking as a human being. This film is heralded by Hawking himself, and is based on his first wife’s memoir of their life together, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, and it covers his early academic years, family, and working with the progression of his motor-neuron disease. Most notably, Eddie Redmayne (playing Stephen Hawking) becomes indistinguishable, absolutely sinking into the skin of man he portrays with a brilliant performance.
Into the Woods starring Meryl Steep and Johnny Depp, New DVD Into
Witches, princesses, and princes are all coexisting on the edge of the dark, dark woods. But what lies within those woods? It may sound like the setup for types of fairy tales we hear over and over – and we may be tired of – but thankfully, Into the Woods has the twist that only Stephen Sondheim can provide. A renewal of classic fairy tales, Into the Woods is a film based off a musical bearing the same name. It follows the fairy tales we all know – Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella – past their happy-ever-afters to endings that, well, aren’t quite happy at all. It must have been a massive undertaking to adapt the Stephen Sondheim musical to screen, but it was expertly done. And Meryl Streep is in it. What more can I say? Well: It’s quite good!
Jacob – Circulation
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, OB Internet Download (e-book)
Marcus Samuelsson is an award-winning chef and this book chronicles his journey. His unique upbringing, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by adoptive parents, provides interesting insight as he climbs the chef and restaurant ranks. Marcus appears frequently on the Food Network and has cooked for the President of the United States. If you are a fan of memoirs or cooking, this book is for you!