Poetry Takes Over April

The month of April is the internationally beloved National Poetry Month, created in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It has its own website and millions of readers. They call for librarians, teachers, and readers to celebrate in any way possible. What are some of the best poems released recently? In celebration of poetry month, here is a list of some of the best compilations:

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur’s poetry has taken the world by storm with her 2014 compilation of poems Milk and Honey. It is split into four chapters and focuses on her journey of sexual assault, healing, finding love, and loving yourself. It has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for seventy-seven weeks and has sold over 2.5 million copies. Her following work, The Sun and Her Flowers, was published last year.

Danez Smith

Another prominent collection of poems is Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith. It was published in 2017 and touched on a variety of hard-hitting themes such as police shootings, racial tensions in America, and a medical diagnosis that changes lives. Every poetry reader should add this book to their 2018 reading list.

Ocean Vuong. Photographer: Tom Hines

Poetry is certainly gaining traction in the literary world. The poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong as been received with glowing reviews. He is a fairly new poet and this collection was published in 2016. His poems center around the Vietnam War, romance, sadness, and family relationships.

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker wrote the poetry book There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce. Her work revolves around Black American womanhood and the tragedies, love, and vulnerability that comes with that title. Multiple articles have been written about her in The Nation, The Washington Post, and NPR. Her writing is unapologetic and guides the reader to become more self-aware.

Poetry has a bad reputation in the modern world. People believe that haiku’s are simple and anyone can create a poem. Unlike novels, poems are a quick conversation, a simple smile-and-wave exchange of words. People might be turned off by their short length; however, some things are best said in one exploding sentence than several drawn out chapters.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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Simon Says I Love Love, Simon

The movie we (I) have all been waiting for is now in theaters! Love, Simon is a romantic-comedy based on the young adult book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The titular character is a closeted gay boy with a loving family and close friends. Simon falls in love with a fellow closeted classmate with whom he exchanges anonymous emails, but while trying to find out the identity of his mysterious flame, he must also contend with a blackmailing classmate threatening to out him to the school.

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Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book and so cannot comment on how the movie compares, but can I just say the original title is so much more cute and clever?

Watching this movie, I felt a strong sense of familiarity. I have watched this movie before many times over. Rom-com, check. Falling in love with an anon online, check. Someone threatening to reveal the main character’s identity, check check check. The plot follows many similar points as straight rom-coms before it, and that in itself is kind of revolutionary. That this can be considered as just another movie in a long line of rom-coms is indicative of the slow acceptance queer stories. Unfortunately, this does mean the story can feel a bit boring at times.

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It is most definitely refreshing to have a queer movie that does not end in death and destruction, but a little more nuance would have been appreciated. Simon is surrounded by liberal friends and family who without a doubt would accept his coming out, a fact that he acknowledges in his narration. The homophobia depicted in the film was displayed strictly by two bullies, who eventually get the discipline they deserve. I would have liked the movie to explore the subtle homophobia that is more typically seen in real life, such as the jokes Simon’s dad tells.

The highlight of the movie were Simon’s coming out scenes. Despite him coming out many times to multiple people, the scenes always felt new and special, different based on his relationship to the other person. After the entire beginning of the movie with Simon keeping his distance from all his loved ones, this felt intimate and touching. Many tears were shed, and I am not referring to the characters in the movie.

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The cuties that made the movie

All in all, this was a good and wholesome film. Even when the plot lacked originality, the charming cast, particularly Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men) and Katherine Langford (Thirteen Reasons Why), was able to add that pizzaz that brought the movie to life. This is a great movie to watch if you want the warm and fuzzy feelings.

I give this movie:

4 out of 5 rainbows.

🌈🌈🌈🌈

By the way, Leah on the Offbeat, the sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, is out April 24, 2018. This book follows Leah, Simon’s best friend, as she navigates her family life and her own bisexuality. Buy it at your local bookstore now!

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Fanfiction in the Literary World

With the rise of the internet, fan fiction has become a popular platform for fans to create art based on fictional media they love. Entire websites, such as Archive of Our Own, have databases full of fan fictions and other fan-based creations. If there is a show, movie, book series, or anything that people might consume for entertainment, fan fiction will exist for it. Fan fiction originally started with the series Star Trek in the 1960s.

Most stories revolve around the ‘canon’ world, or the plot will be in the same universe that the original piece was made in. Other fan creations might have an AU, i.e. Alternate-Universe, story attached to it. For example, imagine a fan writing a few thousand words for a romance story based on Lord of the Rings. An AU could be set in a coffee shop with a romance between Frodo and Sam. J.R.R. Tolkien, however, might be unhappy that people are using his characters, or he could be ecstatic that people love his story enough to create more content. The lines between infringing on copyright and fans having fun are very, very blurry.

A few companies were not happy with fans creating art off of their art, especially if they made money off of it. The original creators felt their stories were part of a ‘rip off,’ and that fans should enjoy their content but not base their creations off used-characters and label them as the same thing. George R.R. Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, frowns upon fan fiction and says that it is bad practice for aspiring writers. Simple blog owners have received formal letters asking for immediate removal of their fan fiction from certain sites or they will face legal action from the original company. Anne Rice, creator of Interview with a Vampire, has been guilty of exercising this tactic to her fans.

On the other hand, major authors like J.K. Rowling stated that she felt flattered. Fifty Shades of Grey is a Twilight fan fiction originally posted under the name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.” Stephenie Meyer made no arguments when it became an international sensation. Authors of fan fiction usually put a disclaimer on their post that states they own nothing, but that does not prevent legal action from taking place.

Is fan fiction blatant plagiarism or an outlet for fans? Do the rules change when fan fiction is about real people or events? Nothing is solid because the internet is a free (-ish) regulated place. Fans only have to listen to what their creators say about fan fiction to stay out of legal trouble.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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Picture This: Graphic Novels Everywhere

Graphic novels have been on a steady rise for the past few years, and there is no surprise why. Graphic novels are rich not only in imagery, but they are also on par with traditional books in terms of storylines and and characters. Some, such as Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, have even been making their way onto required readings lists at universities. If you’re looking to add graphic novels to your reading list, check out the ones below!

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Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

National Women’s Month may be over, but the feminist festivities never stop. Bagieu details the lives of amazing women around the world throughout history.  Each woman get a mini illustrated biography in Bagieu’s colorful and charming style. The diversity of women chosen for this book is incredible; there are women of color, disabled women, queer women, and so much more. In conclusion, drop everything you’re doing and read this graphic novel now. Just do it!

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The Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head by David Gaffney, Dan Berry (Illustrator)

It’s like being haunted by your ex, but next level. In this darkly humorous graphic novel, Valerie, who is unlucky in love, imagines that all her exes are dead and their bodies are in her cellar. She brings their bodies up every now and then to talk about what went wrong in the relationship. The eccentricities of the characters coupled with the expressive art and watercolors make for a hilarious but poignant read.

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Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (New Edition) by Mat Johnson, Warren Pleece (Illustrator)

This black and white graphic novel was originally published in 2008 and has been re-released for its tenth anniversary. To investigate lynchings in the South, African-American reporters from the North who could pass as white were sent to expose the crimes. The racial tension throughout the narrative rings true in today’s society, making this a relevant read even now.

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Get Naked by Steven T. Seagle, Mads Ellegard Skovbakke (Artist), Emei Olivia Burell (Artist), Tina Burholt (Artist), Patricia Amalie Eckerle (Artist)

Have you ever wondered about America’s hang up with nudity? In a series of nineteen “graphic essays” collaborations with nineteen different artists, Seagle travels the world, gets naked, and explores different ideas about nudity. A balance between humor and emotion, this work is sure to fascinate from beginning to end.

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Clue by Paul Allor, Nelson Daniel (Illustrator)

It was Professor Plum in the Kitchen with the Candlestick! The classic board game had an equally iconic movie adaption and is now a graphic novel. All your favorite usual suspects are back along with some new faces, but the objective is still the same. Can you figure out who killed Mr. Boddy first?

Pizzeria Kamikaze by Etgar Keret, Asaf Hanuka (Illustrator)

The main character commits suicide over a failed romance only to find himself in an afterlife exactly like the one he just left, only filled with fellow suiciders. After finding that the woman he killed himself over is in the same afterlife, he sets off on a perilous journey to find her. This graphic novel was originally published in 2006 and is now available in hardback.

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The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

If you like mushroom on your pizzas or cute things, buy this book.

Cindy Nguyen-Pham, Intern

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The Best April Fools in Literature History

Everyone recognizes the annual tradition that April 1 is the day for wholesome pranks on friends and family. Its popularity grew in the nineteenth century, but it is not a marked holiday in any country. The reason April Fools exists today is because of a collection of stories called The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was written in the late fourteenth century and consists of twenty-four tales. One specific tale, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” mentions specific dates that were translated incorrectly. Chaucer originally wrote a time frame that mentioned thirty-two days after March, i.e. the second of May.

There was a copying error, however, and the line was printed to read the thirty-second of March, which would correspond to April 1. The tales were silly, full of pranks, and encouraged wholesome fun. This literary history is why it is debated whether or not this manuscript started the April Fools tradition. The origin of this silly holiday is rooted in written hoaxes, and it is not the only manuscript that holds the greatest literary tricks in human history.

“Donation of Constantine”

In the fourth century, the emperor Constantine the Great supposedly wrote “Donation of Constantine.” This forged letter detailed how the Emperor, through his Christian faith, was cured of leprosy by Pope Sylvester I. This Pope received mountains of funds, property, and power through this letter. It was not denounced as a fake letter used only to gain power until the 1440s.

“JT LeRoy”

JT LeRoy was a literary persona in the 1990s created by Laura Albert. Her works were autobiographies, telling the life of a teenage boy who contracted HIV. She contacted her fans through email and phone calls, pretending to be LeRoy. Albert was finally revealed when fans pieced together contradictions in her emails, and in October of 2005, the New York magazine published an article dethroning her.

“The Hitler Diaries”

In 1983, a German magazine titled Stern published a series of sixty volumes of a diary that they claimed was written by Hitler. Konrad Kujau sold them for millions of dollars. They did not have the documents examined by World War II experts, and shortly after its publication, the magazine was accused of forgery. Forensics used handwriting samples and fluorescent lighting to test the authenticity and age of the paper. Kujau was revealed to be a fraud, and he spent four years and six months in prison.

There are many other literary tricks that have occurred in history, and if all listed here, it would take hours to read. How many other letters, autobiographies, or diaries are believed to be genuine but are in reality fake? You can’t trust everything you read.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern and Millionaire

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Upcoming Literary Events

There is never a shortage of events to attend in a literary hub like Boston, so much so that the number of options can be overwhelming! But fear not, I have sorted through the events and pulled out some of the highlights for the upcoming weeks so you can go forth and check out these events in peace.

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Thursday, March 29 7:30 PM at The Wilbur Theatre: Chrissy Metz

In this day, in this age, in this economy, who hasn’t seen This is Us yet? The beloved television show relies on a cast of remarkable actors to bring out the vibrancy that has attracted so many viewers; and Chrissy Metz, who plays Kate Pearson, is finally telling all in her new book This is Me. The star recounts the struggles she has been through and the obstacles she has faced to claim her rightful space in the world.

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Wednesday, April 4 6:00 PM at Harvard Book Store: Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer is back, and this time she is armed with The Female Persuasion. In the novel, a young college woman meets a veteran feminist who starts to change her life. This poignant take on the power of relationships between women and is no doubt relevant to our times. She will be joined at the event by author Celeste Ng.

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Thursday, April 5 6:00 PM at Boston Public Library Copley: Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes, Scott Magoon, and Rescue

Authors and married couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were both injured during the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, but they didn’t let that stop them in their tracks. Together with illustrator Scott Magoon and star of the show service dog Rescue, they teamed up to produce Rescue and Jessica, a picture book about how service dogs and people with disabilities work together.

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Thursday, April 5 6:30 PM at Harvard Book Store: Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison will be discussing her book The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath. A blend of the narratives surrounding the recovery from substance dependence and her own experiences, this book explores both the physical and emotional turmoil that comes with such a journey.

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Monday, April 9 7:30 PM at Brookline Booksmith: Exit West book discussion

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid has been chosen by countless publications (including us!) as the best book of 2017. See why the book has been so widely acclaimed, and go discuss the novel with fellow book lovers.

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Monday, April 16 7:00 PM at Wilbur Theatre: Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

The Bush twins are back, and now they are promoting their first memoir written together. In this book, the former first daughters reflect on their sisterly bond as well as highlights from their lives, including some memorable moments while at the White House.

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Thursday, April 19 7:00 PM at Brookline Booksmith: Jenny Xie and Matthew Dickman 

If poetry is your thing, this is the event for you. Jenny Xie’s debut collection Eye Level has won numerous awards for its meditation on immigration, loss, and more. Matthew Dickman’s fourth collection Wonderland explores the darkness in his own past with his trademark lyricism.

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Saturday, April 28 all day wherever there is one: Independent Bookstore Day!!

Come out and show your support for your local independent bookstores!

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Sunday, April 29 4:00 PM at Harvard Book Store: James Comey

Former FBI director James Comey needs no introduction after this year. His new book chronicles his time working for the American government, his work coinciding with some of the most important political moments of modern times. Tickets to the event are sold out, but you can still get on the waitlist.

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Thursday, May 3 6:00 PM at Coolidge Corner Theatre: H. Jon Benjamin

You probably have not heard of him before, but you have heard him. The voice actor behind the main titular characters of Archer and Bob’s Burgers brings more laughs with his autobiography centered around all the failures he’s experienced in his life.

Cindy Nguyen-Pham, Intern

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Curling: The Forgotten Sport

This year, South Korea hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics in the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. Over a hundred events were hosted, which included curling, skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Germany and Norway were tied with the most gold medals won, which was fourteen. Norway, however, was the country with the most medals accumulated, with a total of thirty-nine. People are more apt to think about how much the tickets are (some can reach up to $600) instead of what stories derive from the events. Such stories come from one fairly new sport: curling.

Curling: An Illustrated History by David B. Smith is one of the first novels about the Olympic sport. This novel was published in 1981 and gave a full history of the sport. Curling was not added to the official program until the 1998 Nagano games. Some critics say that this book has done little to improve the quality of descriptive curling history; however, Smith recounts historical events that involve curling that no other author has achieved. Smith, a Scottish curler, had won three gold medals and various other trophies for curling. Unfortunately, he stopped competing in 2007 and recently passed away in 2015.

A more modern approach to curling is the novel Throwing Rocks at Houses: My Life in and Out of Curling by Colleen Jones. This novel steers away from the boring strategies and techniques and focuses on the author’s mental and physical journey. Jones is from Nova Scotia and is proud to be a Canadian curler. She overcomes a life-threatening disease and lives to tell her tale of self-determination. She has also published another book, Curling Secrets (2007), which focuses more on how a player becomes adept at curling.

Pride, Prejudice, and Curling Rocks by Andrea Brokaw is a perfect YA novel that encompasses loyalty, romance, and confidence. Readers who do not know a thing about curling will still enjoy this fiction novel. It follows the story of Darcy Bennet, a seventeen-year-old who dreams of becoming an Olympic curler.

If curling doesn’t sound appealing or looks too odd, there is a novel for beginners called Curling for Dummies. It explains the rules, how the players work together, and why it’s so fun. There has to be something to this sport since it has been played since late-medieval Scotland!

 

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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