Tag Archives: American poetry

My first overdue library book was A Light in the Attic


By: Danielle Prostrollo

Of course it is no badge of pride to have an overdue library book, but it is nonetheless true.  When I was about 7 years old I borrowed the popular Shel Silverstein book from the public library and then managed to accidentally keep it for, what I think was, 3 or 4 years.  That’s a lot of money in overdue fines.  But while my criminal record is forever tarnished, my relationship with poetry was shaped by that compilation.

I still go back to Silverstein on occasion, his writing is proof that poetry and literature does not need to be erudite to be masterful.  Most of his poems are one or two stanzas – short enough to keep the interest of young readers – and depict a world where not everything is sunshine and rainbows, but that it’s usually ok anyway.

In his later book Falling Up, Silverstein posits that if sunglasses keep out the sun then surely rainglasses can keep out the rain.  This kind of close-to-home whimsy allows kids (and grown-ups) to question their own world and consider why things are ‘the way they are’.

Other Silverstein works hit on aspects of life that most will find relevant well into adulthood as is the case with Tell Me which manages to distill common human phenomenon… “tell me I’m great/look thin/did a good job/etc… but be honest” into 8 lines.

In a time when it feels increasingly nice to turn off the news for a spell, A Light in the Attic (and any Shel Silverstein book) feels just as entertaining, relatable, and poignant as it did when I was seven.

You can find A Light In The Attic at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library here:

Photo: http://www.shelsilverstein.com/ from the cover of Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends

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Filed under American Culture, Books, Memorial Library

Great American Poems

On Tuesday evening (which was, incidentally, a very lovely Spring evening) we opened our doors to a full house of local poetry lovers for our first-ever Great American Poems event. Each of our presenters, all scholars from UEA, introduced and read a favourite American poem to our eager audience. This was the line-up:

‘Safe in their alabaster chambers’ by Emily Dickinson, presented by Kate Anderson

‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, presented by Philip Wilson

‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot, presented by Gareth Jones

‘If We Must Die’ by Claude McKay, presented by Christopher Astwood

‘I Am Vertical’ by Sylvia Plath, presented by Silvia Panizza

Silvia Panizza presents Plath’s ‘I Am Vertical’

Although isolating just five of the vast canon of American verse works is a fundamentally frustrating project, we all enjoyed hearing a chronologically and aesthetically diverse range of poets, pulled together into one communal space for the evening.

The assortment presented several interesting topics for further contemplation/discussion. Presenting Eliot’s ‘Prufrock’, Gareth Jones admitted his hesitation at first: do we consider a poem written in Europe by an ardent expatriate an American work? I suppose either side of the pond would be silly not to claim a masterpiece like ‘Prufrock’ as their own!

Christopher Astwood highlighted Claude McKay’s Jamaican heritage which, when balanced against his significance in New York’s Harlem Renaissance, makes him a kind of reverse Eliot.

Under Philip Wilson’s instruction, we considered how our chance decisions throughout the day had led us to the Memorial Library to the event, which had ‘made all the difference’. So true.

Let us not forget Dickinson and Plath, who through the voices of Kate Anderson and Silvia Panizza provided dazzling female book-ends to the night.

The audience provided resoundingly positive feedback, urging us to host more poetry events in the future. We’ll see you next time!

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in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, Tuesday 16 April, 6.30-7.30pm

Stop               this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin     of all poems…                                  

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” 

We’re happy to say that our American poetry collection is growing significantly this spring! To celebrate, we are planning an evening event celebrating great American poems. We hope to recruit 6 or 7 doctoral students and Faculty members from UEA working in (or near) the field of American poetry to participate. Each will give a reading of a poem of his or her choice accompanied by a brief speech—aimed at a general audience—illustrating the selection.

Please contact Kate at kathryn.anderson@norfolk.gov.uk for more information and to voice your interest in participating. If possible, please provide a short-list of poems you might choose. Anyone interested in “chairing” the evening by providing a rousing introduction and/or a reflective conclusion should also contact Kate.

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