Poetry 365: Eleanor Chai

admin-ajax.phpThis month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting the remarkable debut collection from poet Eleanor Chai.  In Standing Water, Chai takes readers to a small Paris museum where she encounters a bust of Japaneses dancer Little Hanako by sculptor Auguste Rodin that triggers painfully complex memories of the mother erased from the poet’s life since her childhood.  Described by Mark Strand as “a masterpiece,” Colm Toibin declared, “The last poems of the book are outstanding, chiseled and perfect, line by line by line.  Standing Water is a great achievement.”  So don’t miss this hauntingly honest debut, sample the opening poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.

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An Interview with Donna Wesley Spencer

2_DonnaWesleySpencerEPL716Donna Wesley Spencer is an Evanston photographer, founding member of Perspective Gallery, and the latest artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  Her exhibit Inside the Frances Willard House is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through July 30th.  Featuring sixteen gorgeous interior shots of Willard’s home at 1730 Chicago Avenue, the exhibit celebrates one of Evanston’s greatest historical treasures and serves as a visual appetizer for the grand reopening of the Francis Willard House Museum in September 2016.  You can learn more about Spencer’s work by visiting her website, and we recently spoke with her via email about her artistic origins, falling in love with the Willard House, and what’s new at Perspective Gallery.

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Remembering the WAC with ‘Mollie’s War’

Even though Cyndee Schaffer always knew her mother served during World War II, it was still a little hard to believe.  “She was always a very quiet person,” says Schaffer, “and that she found the courage to join the military just amazed me.”  In fact, Schaffer’s mother – Mollie Weinstein Schaffer – served as an enlistee in the newly-formed Women’s Army Corps from 1943 to 1945 during which time she sent home hundreds of letters describing bombings in England, landing in Normandy just weeks after the Allied invasion, and serving in Germany after VE Day.  Her fascinating letters have been collected in the recent book Mollie’s War, and this Sunday, July 17th at 3 pm you can join Cyndee Schaffer when she visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room to read excerpts from the book and share Mollie’s WWII memorabilia.  In anticipation of her visit, we recently spoke with Cyndee via email about her work editing and researching Mollie’s War, her favorite of her mother’s WAC experiences, the lost art of letter writing, and what she hopes readers take away from the book.

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Talking with Geralyn Hesslau Magrady, the 2016 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author

Magrady Headshot
Author Geralyn Hesslau Magrady

The Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project recently announced the 2016 winner of its annual writing competition, and now your list of “must-read” books is officially one title longer.  Choosing from the best self-published fiction Illinois writers have to offer, librarians throughout the state selected Geralyn Hesslau Magrady as this year’s winning author for her excellent historical novel Lines–.  Set in 1870s-era Chicago and filled with incredible period detail, Magrady’s book explores the historical struggles for workers’ rights and gender equality while tracing the life of Livia Haas – a young German woman who experiences first love and terrible loss while surviving both the Great Fire and the Haymarket Affair.  Though her summer is packed with statewide book readings and signings, Magrady recently paused to speak with us via email about her contest experience, her real-life inspiration for Livia Haas, research at the Berwyn Public Library, Emily Dickinson, and what she hopes readers will take away from Lines–.

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Local Art @ EPL: Donna Wesley Spencer

Willard Parlor

Donna Wesley Spencer is an Evanston photographer, founding member of Perspective Gallery, and the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  Her exhibit Inside the Frances Willard House is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through July 31st.  Featuring sixteen gorgeous interior shots of Willard’s home at 1730 Chicago Avenue, the exhibit celebrates one of Evanston’s greatest historical treasures and serves as a visual appetizer for the grand reopening of the Francis Willard House Museum in September 2016.  You can learn more about Spencer’s work by visiting her website, and make sure to check back with Off the Shelf later in July for a featured interview with the artist herself.  Stay tuned.

Happy Father’s Day!

Today is Father’s Day, and here on Off the Shelf we’re celebrating with a special salute to EPL’s favorite TV dads.  Enjoy, and to all the dads in both Chicagoland and TV land… Happy Father’s Day!

robert crawleyRobert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey

“He loves his daughters enough to learn from them and see the world in a different, better way.” — Jill

 

 

bob belcherBob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers

“He appreciates his kids’ unique qualities and spends quality time with them.  He’s involved in their lives.  He also does something he loves doing and shows the kids a different kind of success.” –Elizabeth Sanderson

 

Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

“Coach Taylor is committed to his family and to making a difference in the lives of the kids on his teams.”  — Jarrett Dapier

 

 

randy marshRandy Marsh, South Park

“A terrible example of what a dad should be… but hilarious.”  — Bob Meyer

 

 

A Few More Favorites…

 

EPL’s Favorite TV Dads

tv dads
TV dads Robert Crawley, Homer Simpson, Ned Stark, and Dre Johnson (l to r).

Father’s Day is less than one week away, and that party you’re planning for your dad is really coming together.  You’ve already gift wrapped a fashionable necktie, ordered brats for the cookout, and scoured StubHub for tickets to see the Cubs beat those dastardly Pirates.  Well, here on Off the Shelf we’re also planning a special Father’s Day celebration, and we need your help.  You see, this Sunday we’re saluting our favorite TV dads, and between now and then, we’d like to invite you to share yours.  Please let us know at EPL’s Favorite TV Dads where you can choose from candidates like Ned Stark, Homer Simpson, and the Earl of Grantham or write in your own.  Then, check back with Off the Shelf on Father’s Day when we highlight all of EPL’s picks.  Stay tuned.

Poetry 365: Nicholas Christopher

nicholas christopherThis month for Poetry 365 we’re featuring Nicholas Christopher’s engaging new book On Jupiter Place.  Favorably compared to the work of Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill, this eighth collection of poetry from the Tiger Rag author is perhaps his most personal and autobiographical work to date.  Filled with intimate portraits of his grandmother, father, and even Lois Lane, On Jupiter Place shows why W.S. Merwin described Christopher’s poems as “vibrant with light and the surprise of recognition.”  So don’t miss this engaging new book, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.

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An Interview with ‘The Loss of All Lost Things’ author Amina Gautier

Amina Gautier
Photo by Jenni Bryant

Amina Gautier writes short stories, and her short story collections win awards.  It’s about that simple.  Back in 2011, for instance, her debut collection At-Risk earned the Flannery O’Connor Award and the First Horizon Award among other honors, and her 2014 follow-up Now We Will Be Happy won the Praire Schooner Book Prize.  This past February Gautier continued the trend with The Loss of All Lost Things – a gripping collection of fifteen stories that explores the unpredictable ways in which characters deal with the loss of their loved ones, careers, reputations, and hometowns.  Not only did her third collection win the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, but Gautier was also included on Newcity’s 2016 Lit 50 list and is set to receive the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award in October.  Back on May 9, Gautier visited EPL to read from The Loss of All Lost Things as part of the 2016 Evanston Literary Festival, but if you missed her that night, have no fear.  You can catch her this Saturday, June 11 at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, and what’s more, we recently spoke with her via email about her love of the short story form, her creative process, and the challenges of writing intimately about loss.

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Local Art @ EPL: Barbara Freeman

all dressed in whiteWe are very pleased to welcome Barbara Freeman back to the library for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit.  After debuting with 2010’s Road Light and following up with 2012’s smalltown: faith, flags, & firearms, the Evanston photographer and filmmaker has returned with All Dressed in White – a series of “color photographs that explore the gap between wedding day myths and traditions and the much-more-interesting reality… of two people trying to create a union.”  You can catch this inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of June, and don’t forget to stop by this Saturday, June 4 when it’s included as part of the 2016 Evanston Made gallery tour.  Also, make sure to check back with Off the Shelf later in the month for a featured interview with the artist herself.  Stay tuned.