A great American poet has left us. Stanley Plumly, acclaimed writer and professor at the University of Maryland, passed away at his home on April 11th. He died at seventy-nine of multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.
Plumly published up to eleven volumes of poetry starting in 1970. Some of his best work drew upon intense images of nature juxtaposed against dark memories of his childhood. He was lauded over the years for his passion for the art of poetry as well as his lyrical style of writing.
He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland where he was the director of the creative writing program. While he was teaching there, he became the state’s poet laureate and served there until 2009.
I’m an avid reader, and the only time I read is when I take the train. I live in New York, so the train is like my mobile home, and finishing books is not an issue for me. As for my real house, my bedroom… you could say that it’s slowly becoming the book haven of my dreams—like the kind that has a bed, drawers, clothes, and essentials for every day, while I pick one book at a time from my stack of books. I say a stack of books rather than a shelf full of books because I, unfortunately, have not yet acquired a bookshelf, but it is becoming more and more of a priority. Out of necessity. The mountain of books is getting higher and higher to the point that it’s now just a centimeter away from touching my ceiling.
image via EDIS RUNE
And yet, I cannot help but to buy more books. My unexpected book trips to Barnes and Noble tell my wallet no but my heart yes. (That’s what the New York Public Library is for although I prefer buying.) As the typical millennial that I am, I order mostly online on Amazon. I love watching my stack of books grow like I am watering a plant as it blooms to a tall flower, and you cannot help but think sometimes you might have to cut some of the vines to make some room.
At times, I do get frustrated when I don’t have space in my bedroom for my bag, my makeup box, or other personal belongings. I made a self-compromising decision that I would place all these items in the living room instead. It’s not the most terrible thing in the world, of course, yet I couldn’t help but question just how far am I willing to go to buy and collect more books. I know what you must be thinking: “stop buying books then? or give some of the books you read or don’t want anymore to someone who will appreciate it more?” I would argue that a real book lover would not give up their books that easily, regardless of their feelings towards even the books they’ve left untouched—people’s taste in literature changes over time, and I don’t want any book among my collection to be the ‘one that got away.’
image via independent.co.uk (photo: Poetry is good for the soul ( iStock )
I’ve read about half the books in my collection. A lot of these books like White Teeth, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, In Cold Blood and many others are from back in my English major days. I never liked to rent books because I see books as something that is not for borrowing, not something you can put a deadline on. Stories, works of fiction, poetry, are captured in a place of timelessness—and reading a book is what you put into it. Getting the full experience and to truly appreciate the book means not having to worry about time waiting by the door, fumbling its fingers with impatience. That is also why I cannot rent books at the library, but I still support them with donations, and you should too!
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When family, friends, or boyfriends come into my room, the first point of eye contact is my books, looking down at us, questioning us if we would like to read one of them. Some of my loved ones challenge me as to why I keep the books I read or unread, or books I just completely lost interest in. I wouldn’t say I am a complete monster. I let people borrow my books; HOWEVER, I need a guaranteed return. I know all of a sudden I sound like a librarian, but I won’t charge late fees. Of course, I will send receipts of the promises you made that you would return them, like text messages, emails, all that good stuff. Now the most important questions of all, do I want to be a book hoarder? No, I don’t, and then people ask, what’s the point of keeping the books since spring cleaning is right around the corner? Why not make room for things that are possibly a bit more important?
image via nowtoronto.com (photo: tanja tiziana)
I hope it doesn’t sound crazy to say that I am enjoying this problem. I enjoy it because I don’t have to solve it, and it’s not a problem, at least for me. The way I see it, when you finish reading a book, you can’t help but have this feeling of a sense of accomplishment, regardless if you enjoyed the story or not. It feels fantastic to finish a book because of your commitment, consistency, persistence, and dedication, all realized. It’s not like writing where you have something to show what you did; you can only talk about it. But if you keep a collection of books and share your gallery of works, written by your favorite authors, in whom you have invested time—then that becomes your published work. It’s also important to note how seeing a small mountain of books can strike inspiration for people to become better readers or writers. My nine-year-old niece (a notorious non-reader) saw how protective of my small book fortress I am and FINALLY changed her perspective. Now, she’s obsessed with the Captain Underpants series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My books are not her taste (as she is, as we established, nine), but I think my books are like the fine wine that I love to sip while reading them.
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I know I may be Marie Kondo’s nightmare, but that’s okay, as long as I am living my dream. Inside The Bell Jar of my world, and book in hand, I will continue to live my best life.
Everyone needs to stop pirating books. That’s means me – especially me – and you, and the person next to you, and the people who don’t read this article.
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Creativity is meant to be experienced, but we live in a capitalist society, in which people need to make money, and sadly, by artists’ work being distributed for free, they lose out. And you know what happens if they lose money? All those books and other creative works we love will no longer we accessible.
Thankfully people are fighting back.
This isn’t the say that musicians and filmmakers aren’t fighting back, but on the literary side, we have Philip Pullman.
Image Via The Guardian
Philip Pullman, author of the famed His Dark Materialstrilogy, and president of the Society of Authors, sent a letter to Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy specifically about ebook piracy, and he’s not alone.
That means THIRTY-FOUR authors wrote to the UK’s Secretary of State to talk about ebook piracy – specifically its growing relevancy and how it hurts the writing industry.
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That’s right Robin, Holy Cow.
What did they have to say? Well, it might scare you.
“We are concerned that websites offering illegal downloads of books are becoming increasingly prevalent,” the letter reads, “We do not want to give any of these sites publicity by naming them here, but they can easily be found”.
The letter goes on to cite its sources, kids, noting that that the growth of online book piracy could “make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work”. If that wasn’t scary enough, The Guardian wrote nine months ago how, “[b]ased on a standard thirty-five-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 [$7.49] per hour, £2 [$2.61] less than the UK minimum wage for those over twenty-five.”
This is in thanks to ebooks. If publishers can’t get back their money by publishing books, then why give the authors the money they deserve? Why give them any money at all?
“This will harm writers and readers alike – if authors can no longer afford to write, the supply of new writing will inevitably dry up.”
This isn’t hyperbole, this is straight honest truth. It’s hard to listen to, we might not want to hear it, but we have to. There’s a reason all these authors, all thirty-four of them, wrote to the UK’s secretary of state, “calling on [him] to take action against the blight of online book piracy” because if creative people don’t get paid for their work, then they have to spend less time being creative. That means we get even less books, writings, and other creative works.
Gregg Clark hasn’t given a response, yet, but we sure hopes that after his words comes quick, decisive action because, even though we might not like it, creativity and business go hand in hand in our society. Ironically, piracy is so easy because creative works are all around us, but if piracy were to continue then there WILL NOT be anywhere near as many creative works around us.
For the non-poetry reader, finding ways to celebrate National Poetry Month can be hard. We’re making it easier for you to find your next favorite book while also celebrating the beautiful art of poetry!
After the death of her father, Layken moves away from sunny Texas to snow-ridden Michigan with her brother and mother. She immediately finds love in their neighbor, Will Cooper. Will introduces Layken to the wonderful world of slam poetry through an open mic night at a local club. Though their relationship gets more and more complicated, their love for poetry remains true through the book and its sequels.
Sixteen-year-old Bri dreams of becoming a rapper and ultimately making it out of her neighborhood. Before his death, her father was “an underground rap legend” leaving Bri with some big shoes to fill. The book is filled with fresh rhymes written by Angie Thomas herself, leaving readers inspired and with a renewed love of music.
Published after his death, the book chronicles the poetry Shakur wrote from the time he was a teenager. Each poem is filled with the most intimate of thoughts and emotions. These poems will speak to each of his fans and fill them with the Shakur’s spirit, energy, and hope for a better future.
Hopkins has a unique way of telling her story, using lines of poetry instead of prose to convey the narration. The book chronicles the disturbing relationship between Kristina and her monster. Kristina is inspired by Hopkins’ own daughter, while the monster is crystal meth or ‘crank’. Kristina is introduced to the drug after a visit with her father. Under the influence, she turns into her “sexy alter-ego ‘Bree’.” The book is sure to provoke an emotional response and inspire a love of poetry.
After her debut Speak, which touched upon the very serious effects of sexual assault, not much has changed. Shout is her response to the continued fight to end sexual assault. These poems are thought-provoking, personal anecdotes by Anderson. If Speak didn’t make you angry, Shout is sure to have you screaming. The book is filled with “reflections, rants, and calls to action” all written in free-verse to inspire the activist in you.
Do you have a favorite poetry book not found on this list? Let us know!
It’s 1966 (not really, but just go with it), Lyndon Johnson is president, Vietnam protests are in full swing, and you’re 13 years old. Walking into your local library, you scan your school’s book shelves until you eye Lewis Gannett’s The Family Book Of Verse.
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It’s a poetry collection, and in the introduction Lewis Gannett explains that the poems were selected based on how they enjoyable they were and how pleasing to the ear they were if read aloud. It’s a book any child could get into – and so you check it out.
Then life happens.
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Now it’s 53 years later and you go downstairs to clean our your basement and—to your amazement—you find Lewis Gannett’s The Family Book Of Verse.
What do you do?
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This is the exact predicament New Jersey Fair Lawn resident Harry Krame found himself in. Guess when Kirkus Reviews said that Lewis Gannett’s The Family Book Of Verse had a selection of poets that “for the most part not only familiar but established favorites which should ensure the longevity of a collection such as this for home libraries” they were right on the money.
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65 years old, Mr. Krame knew he had three options: Forget about it, burn it, or return it.
Well, he couldn’t burn the book. That’s just plain evil, and if you burn a book then the book Gods will come after you—and that’s a fact.
So in reality he had two options: Forget about the book or return it, and at 19,345 days overdue the book’s $2,000 late fee was worth more than the $4.95 it cost when published in 1961.
Know which option he chose?
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Of course he returned the book, setting an example to his family, his town, and everyone else who learns about his story.
I mean, If he didn’t then this would be a really weird article.
Everyone was shocked. NY Daily News writes that Memorial Middle School Vice Principal Dominick Tarquinio “was stunned when the now-65-year-old adult entered the school with something to return”. Luckily he wasn’t speechless, because when he asked the 65-year-old man’s name, Harry Krame knew just what to say: “I told him I can’t give it to him because I was in the witness protection program.”
Image Via North Jersey
Jokes aside, School librarian Susan Murray saw an opportunity. KLEW writes that Ms. Murray “plans to use the book for a display to teach students about returning books”.
Well, now the story has gone viral, let’s hope the whole country learns that lesson.
As for the $2,000 dollar fine? NBC Philadelphia writes that Principal Dominick Tarquinio told them, “the district will let it slide.”
Good things do happen in the world—you just have to make the right decision.