Reading Room Blog

02/17/2009 - 1:54pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

I suspect that one thing some people have against reading poems is that they are so often so serious, so devoid of joy, as if we poets spend all our time brooding about mutability and death and never having any fun. Here Cornelius Eady, who lives and teaches in Indiana, offers us a poem of pure pleasure.

A Small Moment

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:

02/17/2009 - 1:53pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

One of the most effective means for conveying strong emotion is to invest some real object with one's feelings, and then to let the object carry those feelings to the reader. Notice how the gloves in this short poem by José Angel Araguz of Oregon carry the heavy weight of the speaker's loss.

Gloves

I made up a story for myself once,
That each glove I lost
Was sent to my father in prison

That's all it would take for him
To chart my growth without pictures

02/17/2009 - 1:52pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Here is a poem, much like a prayer, in which the Michigan poet Conrad Hilberry asks for no more than a little flare of light, an affirmation, at the end of a long, cold Christmas day.

Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur—last one can blow

the streetlights out. If children sleep
after the day's unfoldings, the wheel

02/17/2009 - 1:49pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
Father and child doing a little math homework together; it's an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.

Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa's shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps

02/10/2009 - 4:03pm
Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed

Aiken's (Eliza's Daughter, 1994) latest work is the completion of an unfinished work by her esteemed and beloved mentor, Jane Austen, entitled The Watsons. Emma and Elizabeth Watson are unmarried sisters struggling to adjust to the grim reality of their socioeconomic status. Their father, a revered parson and a man of great intelligence, does not bequeath adequate provisions for the two women in the event they do not marry.

03/23/2009 - 2:50pm
Jane Austen's Charlotte

The author of two sequels to Jane Austen novels (The Third Sister and Presumption), Barrett now sets out to complete Austen's last book. When she died in 1817, Austen left behind 11 chapters of a novel chronicling the growth and demise of Sanditon, a town on the southern coast of Sussex. Thomas Parker and his wife have partnered with Sanditon's grande dame, Lady Denham, in an effort to establish the town as a center of tourism competitive with Brighton. A guest of the Parkers, fresh, sharp and level-headed 22-year-old Charlotte Heywood, is the novel's heroine.

02/10/2009 - 3:55pm
Letters from Pemberley

In this continuation to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, one of the best-loved novels in the English language, Elizabeth Bennet, now Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy and mistress of Pemberley, finds herself in a very different league of wealth and privilege. Writing to her sister, Jane, she confides her uncertainty and anxieties, and describes the every-day of her new life. Her first year at Pemberley is sometimes bewildering but Lizzy's spirited sense of humor and satirical eye never desert her.

02/10/2009 - 2:48pm
Mr. Darcy's Daughters: A Novel

 Picking up twenty years after Pride and Prejudice left off, Mr. Darcy's Daughters begins in the year 1818. Elizabeth and Darcy have gone to Constantinople, giving us an opportunity to get to know their five daughters, who have left the sheltered surroundings of Pemberley for a few months in London. While the eldest, Letitia, frets and the youngest, Alethea, practices her music, twins Georgina and Belle flirt and frolic their way through parties and balls and Camilla -- levelheaded and independent -- discovers what joys and sorrows the city has to offer an intelligent young woman.

03/30/2009 - 7:24pm

The Newbery Medal, the world's oldest and most prestigious award for children's books, has come under fire recently.  Last fall children's literature expert Anita Silvey wrote a widely read article, "Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?", that questioned the recent medal winners.  She quoted librarians who claim the winners are too special, with appeal to only a few readers.  Sales figures do bear out the fact that recent winners have sold less well than many earlier selections.

03/30/2009 - 7:17pm

The American Library Association announced its prestigious children's book awards yesterday, including the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book and the Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American children's literature. 

This morning's column takes a look at a few of the best books of the year that did not win either prize - not because they're not worthy, but because, being British, they're not eligible.