My name is Emily Grayson, and I live in Evanston with my daughter and husband in a very cool six-unit building with some of my dearest friends. I hold a variety of great jobs around Evanston and Chicago: I work professionally as an actor and singer, I’m a standardized patient at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 16 years and currently see clients at the Evanston Athletic Club. In my spare time, I can often be found knitting, sewing, singing or drinking coffee at various Evanston locales.
1) The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
This was the first in a series of books I read for a Black Lives Matter reading group I started last January. It began a year-long discussion about race in America and the conversation has never been dull and has often been humbling. Wilkerson’s book and its first-person accounts of the three migrants at the center helped to give us context for our subsequent reads, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
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My name is Janine Macris, and I have lived in Evanston for a very long time. I appreciate its love of trees and the arts and its community, and I have spent many hours at the Evanston Public Library, even before I could read. I teach children, including my own, through my love of the power of words, and my husband builds me furniture and I love it. We read every night and it’s a great gift.
1) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
It took me years to finally make it beyond a few chapters in this book. I had never been able to get past my college life’s raw imagining of the Running of the Bulls, but once my professor helped frame this feminist reflection of a woman traveling along and craving companionship with a friend filled with the same strain, I re-sought existentialism as a crisis amid hope. It was through this read that I saw Hemingway’s infamous short-and-sweet style being as transient as his characters’ lives. I finally understood his talent for code-switching symbolic gestures in a rebellion to be free. From there Hemingway’s door opened for me, and I felt accomplished and proud to get to the root of time’s angular woven ways.
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My name is Tyler Leach. I am the Middle School Latin teacher at Baker Demonstration School, which draws many of its students from the Evanston community. While my book choices trace back to my love of language, my hobbies revolve around a love of family, music (listening and playing), food (cooking and dining out), and sport. I am a transplant to the Middle West from the Northeast, and my wife Emily (born and raised in Evanston) and I currently live in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood with our two sons Henry and Palmer.
1) Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Stanley Lombardo (19 B.C., 2005)
For those who have never read the Aeneid, Lombardo’s translation makes the text accessible to a modern audience, and the theme of the poem is easily relatable to the story unfolding in modern day Syria. Having attempted to translate Virgil’s work myself, I cannot help but marvel at Lombardo’s keen ability to bring the text to life while all the while remaining true to its classical roots. For anyone who has the time and interest, Lombardo’s translations of the Iliad and Odyssey are real gems, too.
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If Amy Newman’s On This Day in Poetry History is topping your must-read list, you’re certainly not alone. Poetry lovers here at EPL have been clamoring for a copy since the summer, and demand for her follow-up to Dear Editor only continues to grow. Described as a “dazzling new collection” by the NY Times, On This Day in Poetry History finds Newman exploring the lives of poetry heavyweights such as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Berryman in search of that elusive “moment when a person becomes a poet.” A wholly innovative mix of biography and stunning verse, Newman’s latest showcases what Image praised as her “true mastery [of the] ability to play with language.” We recently spoke with the Northern Illinois University professor via email about rediscovering poetry in Manhattan, the history and allure of the “Confessional” poets, the challenges of biographical poetry, and how her favorite poem from the book came into being.
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This 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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This 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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This month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting the impressive debut collection from poet Jason Zuzga. In Heat Wake, the FENCE editor meditates on desire, the complexities of time, and the natural world while traveling through the silent Arizona desert into the suburban New Jersey of his youth. Poet Kevin Killian raves, “For the anatomical sensations he observes, the tenderness of his sentences, his insatiate curiosity, and his experience of surrealism, we might consider Jason Zuzga the Oliver Sacks of poetry.” So check out Heat Wake, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.
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The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival might be nearing its conclusion, but rest assured, there is still plenty of book-loving fun to be had this weekend thanks to Northwestern University, Bookends & Beginnings, the Chicago Book Expo, and your very own EPL. What’s more, here on Off the Shelf we’ll continue featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists even after the festival wraps. Next up is poet Dina Elenbogen. A teacher of creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School and of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, Elenbogen is the author of the poetry collection Apples of the Earth and the recent memoir Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story. She has received fellowships and awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the Ragdale Foundation, the Evanston Arts Council and Hilai Artists Colony in Israel, and her work has appeared in magazines including December, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Tikkun, and Rhino as well as in anthologies such as Lost on the Map of the World, Where We Find Ourselves, and Brute Neighbors. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Elenbogen will share her work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with her via email about her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and his new poem “Missing.”
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What an exciting time to be a booklover in Evanston! The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival is currently in full swing, and from now until May 14th, you can celebrate Evanston’s vibrant literary community at more than 50 free events produced jointly by the Evanston Public Library, Bookends & Beginnings, Northwestern University, and the Chicago Book Expo 2016. Here on Off the Shelf we’re joining the fun by featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists, and first up is poet Chris Green. A Senior Lecturer in the English Department at DePaul University, Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and most recently Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry, The New York Times, New Letters, Verse, and Nimrod, and he’s edited four anthologies including Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography and most recently I Remember: Chicago Veterans of War. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Green will share his work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with him via email about his poetic origins and inspirations, his writing process, and his new poem “Chicago, September.”
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Another National Poetry Month might be in the books, but here at EPL we’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more poetry! So if you’re like us and April was merely an appetizer for your poetry hunger, you might enjoy feasting on this historic tidbit: on May 5th exactly 200 years ago, the revered Romantic poet John Keats published his very first poem in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner. Titled “O Solitude!,” the sonnet began a remarkable and tragically brief career that saw Keats publish three celebrated books of poetry before his death from tuberculosis on February 23, 1821 at the age of 25. You can read “O Solitude!” below, and then drop by EPL to check out the rest of Keat’s work. You won’t be disappointed.
O Solitude! (Sonnet VII)
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,–
Nature’s observatory–whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Want more John Keats? Try the following: