Veterans Recommend Books

Shows an armed company with their gear walking across a sandy landscape.

by Rohini G.

Veterans, both active and retired military, participated in a recent online book discussion series. During five monthly facilitated sessions, conversations centered on military experiences and a unique set of readings, which included classics, fiction, memoirs, poetry, short stories, articles, and essays. The readings related in some way to military experiences or offered a veteran’s perspective. A new session begins in 2023. The Veterans Book Group is coordinated statewide by Maryland Humanities and is supported in part by the Wawa Foundation.

“If I had to narrow it down to one, it would be The Forgotten 500 by Gregory A. Freeman. The book recounts the details of American airmen shot down in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, and the local Serbian farmers who risked their lives to give them refuge. I really enjoyed learning about a relatively lesser-known WWII operation, and I’m always fascinated by the lengths to which humans will go to help one another when faced with desperate circumstances. This book was really good.”  – Dave O.

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge is, perhaps, the finest individual memoir of the Pacific War. John Keegan, the noted British military historian, spoke highly of it. Ken Burns used it as a source for his documentary, The War.”
– Eugene O.

In The Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat by Rick Atkinson was my favorite book of the list we had to read. I like all books that have to deal with soldiers and this was one of the best. This book was well written and contained many individual issues that affect soldiers.” – Ron B.

HCLS joins the wider community in remembering with gratitude the service of our veterans, including the HCLS employees who have served. We are thankful for their patriotism, their willingness to serve and sacrifice for their country in wartime and in peacetime, and their love for and loyalty to our country and its citizens.

Rohini G. is an Adult Curriculum Specialist with Howard County Library System who coordinates the Veterans Book Club.

Mysteries and Spices!

Thursday, March 17 @ 6:30 pm REGISTER

Conversation and Parsi Cuisine Demo with Authors Sujata Massey and Niloufer Mavalvala.

Navroze Mubarak!

Navroze or “New Day” in Farsi (Parsi) marks the first day of the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere, which falls on March 20/21 each year. It reminds us that the cold is coming to an end, and it’s time to cleanse our homes that have remained closed over the wintry days – a new year to start afresh. The occasion is celebrated with friends, families, and neighbors, sharing what we are fortunate enough to have with others. (Mubarak means congratulations.)

On March 17, we bring you a specially curated and deliciously crafted evening where we discuss the richly detailed and intricately plotted Perveen Mistry mystery series with Author Sujata Massey. Sujata’s immensely popular book The Widows of Malabar Hill seamlessly weaves together historical, political and social layers–suffocating colonialism, societal systems more concerned with appearance than equity, racial and gender disparities. Through Perveen Mistry, Sujata brings to life Bombay in the 1920’s and captures the fine details of Parsi culture

The cover of The Bonbay Prince shows two women in saris ascending a staircase with a decorative banister, looking up as two men in suits appear to be fighting on a balcony above them.  A potted palm tree is visible through a window on the landing.

“Graceful prose and mastery of period detail . . . [The Bombay Prince] propels a rich story of female empowerment during a pivotal era.” -Kirkus Reviews

A favorite with our book groups, Perveen Mistry, the spunky, sari-clad lawyer, tackles mysteries with wit and a shrewd intelligence. Reviewing The Bombay Prince, Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code says, “Perveen’s investigation into the mysterious death of a young university student coincides with the imperial visit of the future Edward VIII, and the resulting trail of breadcrumbs through royal receptions, street riots, squalid jails, and lavish hotels makes for a deliciously satisfying read!”

In conversation with Sujata is Parsi culinary expert and author Niloufer Mavalvala. Niloufer has written two lavishly illustrated cookbooks with a treasure trove of authentic Parsi recipes. The Art of Parsi Cooking: Reviving an Ancient Cuisine and The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders are great for beginners as well as experienced cooks. 

The cover of The World of Parsi Cooking shows a pomegranate with a bowl of dip, and various spices and seeds including cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods, against a bright pink tablecover.

Niloufer was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan and her love for food combined with extensive world travel from a young age inspired her to experiment with world cuisines. She has written articles published in a variety of magazines, journals, and newspapers, and she has been a guest chef at Le Cordon Bleu in London and on the television show for The Cooks Cook in New Hampshire and, more recently, on Voice of Canada.

Niloufer warmly invites us into her home and kitchen as she demonstrates her favorite quick-n-easy recipe and details the unique history and culture of the Parsi community.

The photograph is of a Haftseen table, with tulips and lilacs, an apple and colored eggs, salt and pepper shakers and candlesticks, and a crystal goblet with a beverage, all on a lace tablecover on an ornate wooden table.

The Haftseen table is a symbolic tribute to the seven creations of the universe; fire, water, air, earth, metal, and the plant and animal kingdoms. It thanks the universe for what we have and pray for continuity in the days to come. It is called Haftsheen or Haftseen, where seven items that start with the sound ‘S’ or ‘Sh’ are placed on the table alongside other symbols. 

Join us for Mysteries and Spices on Thursday, March 17 @ 6:30 pm. REGISTER

I Am Spoken Courage

The artist stands in a formal red and black gown against wall painted with graffiti that reads, "Speak."

Howard County Library System invites you to an exceptional series of four poetry slam workshops with Lady Brion this February and March. 

Slam poetry is a spoken-word form of poetry meant to be performed live, with topics that tend to be political and provocative. It has an energy to it that is mesmerizing, and slam poets strive to elicit cheers, laughs, or gasps from their audience. Slam poets evoke strong feelings and the power of everyday language and delivery with their enthusiasm and voice, versus more formal or academic poetry techniques. 

Poetry slams started in Chicago in 1984. The first slam competition originated to move poetry recitals from academia to a popular audience. American poet Marc Smith, finding the poetry scene at the time to be “too structured and stuffy,” began experimenting by attending open microphone poetry readings, then turning them into slams by introducing the element of competition. 

Lady Brion has said, “Poetry creates a unique opportunity to galvanize and unify people. It shows us the universality of the human experience by allowing us to see similarities more than differences as we share stories and frustrations…a poet and their work can reflect the audience in which it is being read before. That is affirming because as an audience member it means that we are seen, we are recognized, and we are not alone. Poetry can evoke the voices and the emotions of those society consistently silences and marginalizes and there is real power in that.” 

Lady Brion is an international spoken-word artist, poetry coach, activist, organizer, and educator, and  she has performed since the age of twelve across the world, including London, Ghana, Zanzibar and many US states. She is a recipient of the Open Society Institute Fellowship, centered around her project facilitating poetry workshops in prisons and group homes throughout Maryland. During her time as a competitor in slam competitions, Lady Brion became the 2016 National Poetry Slam Champion and the 2017 Southern Fried Regional Slam Champion. 

She received her B.A. in Communications from Howard University and her MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore.  

The University of Baltimore’s Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences calls Lady Brion, “bold, dedicated and inspirational,” fitting in perfectly with slam poetry’s power to trigger emotional responses from a live audience. “I will speak for those you forgot to listen to yelling blindside from jaded views. I am courage passed down. I am the dismantling of power structures on surround-sound.” To see and hear Lady Brion perform is to truly witness the power and beauty of slam poetry. 

Brion uses her poetry—focused on the Black struggle, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and religious themes—to merge the space between art and activism. 

The Anthem – February 16. Explore writing celebratory unapologetic anthems about themselves, especially in the midst of an oppressive society that rarely gives space for anyone to express their fullest and truest identity. REGISTER.

Picketed – March 9. Discuss the history of social movements and the way that radical demonstrations and protests can lead to change. This context will be used to have students create their own picket signs and craft a poem from it.  REGISTER. 

If these streets could talk – March 16. Explore a social justice issue that is important to them by personifying a space, place, or object connected to their chosen social ill. REGISTER. 

Open Mic – March 23. Participants are encouraged to share poems created in one of the previous workshops or any other work that they have created. Host Lady Brion performs some of her social justice-related works. REGISTER. 

For more detailed information on class sessions and to register, please visit here:  https://live-howardcounty.pantheonsite.io/events/lady-brion-anthem-poetry-slam-workshop-1 

To see Lady Brion perform click here: https://www.ladybrion.com/reels-1 and here: https://tinyurl.com/mphdpcc2 

Supported by Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo).

Author Works: Mitch Albom on Nov 4

Adrift in a raft after a deadly ship explosion, nine people struggle for survival at sea. Three days pass. Short on water, food and hope, they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in.

“Thank the Lord we found you,” a passenger says.

“I am the Lord,” the man whispers.

So begins Mitch Albom’s most beguiling and inspiring novel yet.

The book cover shows five people on an orange lifeboat silhouetted against a bright full moon rising against a dark blue starry sky. The moon is reflected in the ocean in front of them.

New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom has a genius for finding the sweet spot where the spiritual and the earthly collide in our lives. With such beloved books as Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, and more, Mitch has captivated the world. Now, in his captivating and thought-provoking new novel, The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Albom explores the essence of God on earth through a riveting story that is equal parts mystery and parable.

An explosion on a billionaire’s yacht during a gathering of some of the world’s most influential and innovative movers and shakers leaves ten disparate souls struggling to survive in a life raft. One of them writes an account of the grueling ordeal to his beloved, and those pages are later found, washed up on an island shore on the opposite side of the Atlantic. It falls to a decidedly secular and cynical police inspector to investigate what actually happened on that raft, where it seems one man, pulled from the angry sea by the others three days after the disaster, claimed to be the Lord.

The beguiling narrative alternates between sea and land, between before and after, and between skepticism and belief. What really happened to cause the explosion? Is the mysterious man really who he claims to be?

Mitch Albom has repeatedly challenged our understanding of faith and the necessity of seeking answers where we least expect them. His books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie is the best-selling memoir of all time, with over 17 million copies sold internationally, and was adapted for the stage and as a television movie which garnered four Emmy Awards. With The Stranger in the Lifeboat, this master storyteller offers a fresh take on themes that have defined his estimable work.

Albom has founded nine charities in the metropolitan Detroit area: SAY Detroit, an umbrella organization for charities dedicated to improving the lives of the neediest, including the SAY Detroit Family Health ClinicDetroit Dream Scholarsand A Time To Help. In January 2015, Albom announced the launch of the SAY Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park, an innovative motivational learning program equipped with state-of-the-art athletic facilities, digital learning center and tutoring program. A Hole in the Roof Foundation helps faith groups of every denomination who care for the homeless repair the spaces in which they carry out their work. 


Mitch Albom will discuss his new book and his writing on November 4 @ 7:30 pm. Per the publisher, this virtual event is ticketed and includes one copy of the book The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, signed by the author. 

TICKETED VIRTUAL EVENT. Tickets include one copy of the book The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, signed by the author. Tickets range from $23.99 – $27.99, plus fees. Purchase tickets HERE.

The Walters Art Series 

View of the atrium at the Walters Art Museum, filled with bright light, white columns, and creamy golden walls.
View of the atrium at the Walters Art Museum

by Rohini G.

This fall, and continuing into winter, Howard County Library System partners with The Walters Art Museum to bring an educational approach to art as we discuss specific works of art and the themes behind them. This series of four classes launches with The Art of Looking on October 13. Asking us to slow down and take the time to see the details, Docents Jill Reynolds and Bonnie Kind examine, analyze, and interpret artworks. Expertise gained through this session can be applied to the subsequent session on Symbolism in Renaissance & Baroque Art. The winter sessions will have an exciting and other-worldly feel as we explore Fantastical Creatures in sculpture and paintings. This will segue seamlessly into the fourth session on Chinese Ceramics, just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year.  

Sign up for the series or individual classes that interest you. REGISTER  

The Art of Looking brings forth the concept of Artful Thinking. Developed by Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, this routine encourages students to make careful observations and develop their own ideas and interpretations based on what they see. By separating the two questions, What do you see? and What do you think about what you see?, the routine helps distinguish between observations and interpretations.

The painting depicts the aftermath of the murder of the emperor Claudius.  Gratus, a member of the Praetorian Guard, draws a curtain aside to reveal the terrified Claudius who is hailed as emperor on the spot.  Beneath the bloodtstained herm in the background lie the bodies of Caligula, his wife Caesonia, their young daughter, and a bystander.  Roman men and women are depicted at the left, overlooking the scene.
Image credit: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Roman Emperor: 41 AD, 1871, oil on canvas. Bequest of Henry Walters, 1931, acc. no. 37.165. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. 

In this painting titled A Roman Emperor (Claudius), Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema OM RA (1836-1912), depicts the aftermath of a violent historical event. In AD 41, the debauched Roman emperor Caligula was murdered. Gratus, a member of the Praetorian Guard, draws a curtain aside to reveal the terrified Claudius who is hailed as emperor on the spot.  Beneath the herm in the background, lie the bodies of Caligula, his wife Caesonia, their young daughter and of a bystander. The blood stains on the herm* denote the struggle that has transpired as well as the setting, the Hermaeum, an apartment in the Palace where Claudius had sought refuge.

This detail from the painting depicts Gratus, dressed in the brown uniform of the Praetorian Guard, pulling back a green curtain with brown fringe and a white and brown circular pattern, to reveal the emperor Claudius behind the curtain.  Claudius is robed in white and his frightened face is half-hidden behind the curtain.  Gratus is bowing to him.
Image credit: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, detail from A Roman Emperor: 41 AD, 1871, oil on canvas. Bequest of Henry Walters, 1931, acc. no. 37.165. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.

In the detail of the painting, we see Gratus pulling back the curtain that has hidden Claudius while bowing and the half hidden, scared face of the new emperor.

What a story!

Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema, the creator of this magnificent artwork, was one of the most renowned painters of late nineteenth century Britain.

Born in Dronrijp, the Netherlands, and trained at the Academy of Antwerp, Belgium, he settled in England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life there. A classical-subject painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. One may add that this painting, A Roman Emperor (Claudius), differs from most in the artist’s œuvre.

Analyzing paintings and sculptures, their form, symbolism, ideas, and meaning creates a space to understand and interact with history at a deeper level. Bring your curiosity and questions to the experienced and knowledgeable docents Jill and Bonnie as we embark on this journey intersecting Culture and History.  

The Walters Art series:   

Wednesday, Oct 13 at 1 pm – The Art of Looking REGISTER.  

Wednesday, Nov 10 at 1 pm- Symbolism in Renaissance & Baroque Art  REGISTER. 

Wednesday, Jan 26 at 1 pm – Fantastical Creatures REGISTER. 

Wednesday, Feb 23 at 1 pm – Chinese Porcelain REGISTER. 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

*Herm: a squared stone pillar with a carved head on top (typically of Hermes), used in ancient Greece as a boundary marker or a signpost

The Other Black Girl

Photo of Zakiya Dalila Harris, with the book cover in the bottom right hand corner. Book features a black woman in profile, with her hair up in complex braids. The "I" in "Girl" is an afro hair-pick.

By Rohini G.

This book defies genre. Is it a sly satire or a hard-hitting social commentary? Is it a sharp page-turning thriller or contemporary literature at its best? A witty and playful debut or a manual for code-switching? I could not slot it into just one category. It is the book you will be discussing with your friends and neighbors. Right, Linda?

In blue round italics, "What was she going to do? Who was she going to be?"

Zakiyah Dalila Harris’s novel debuted as a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Time, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Parade, Goodreads, Fortune, and the BBC. Deservedly so. The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Written with wit and incisive humor, this book delves into the modern corporate atmosphere with its microaggressions, isolation, and manipulations. Working at Wagner Books as the only black editorial assistant, Nella Rogers is very excited when one morning, she looks through a small crack in a cubicle and sees what she calls “the flash of a brown hand.” Enter Hazel-May McCall. Nella finds a confidante in Hazel and someone who finally gets it. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to realize there’s something off about Hazel, even if she can’t quite put her finger on it. And then, shortly after Hazel’s arrival, the first anonymous note arrives on Nella’s desk: “Leave Wagner Now.” Hazel? And if not Hazel, then who? Nella begins searching for answers—and in the process, finds herself at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that runs far deeper than she ever could have known 

I thoroughly enjoyed Zakiyah’s sparkling style of writing and her ability to paint office dynamics in nuanced shades of privilege and discrimination, while juggling an un-put-down-able mystery: a mystery that leaves your insides twisted at the end. In her review in The Washington Post, Naomi Jackson says, “One of the pleasures of “The Other Black Girl” is its unapologetic appeal to Black female readers. From references to 90s Black culture to ample servings of hair-related angst, conversations and plot points, Black girls will appreciate how their experiences, perspectives and quirks are centered in this novel.”

We are excited to host Zakiyah on June 23 at 7 pm. Listen to Zakiyah Harris and bring your questions. Register here

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

Ancient History: The Silk Road

The public domain map in green, blue, and tan shades depicts the Silk Road Route that ran from China through India and Persia and into Europe,, as well as a more southerly route that encompassed modern-day Malaysia and Singapore, the coast along the Indian Ocean, and eastern Africa up to Europe via the Red Sea.
Map of the Silk Road Routes (Public Domain)

Formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, the Silk Road was a vast network of trade routes that was the lifeline of commerce from 130 BCE – 1453 CE. Many different branches comprised this road connecting China, India, and Persia, with Persia being a gateway further into Europe. The main route of the Silk Road was established much before the Han dynasty; known as the Persian Royal Road during the Achaemenid Empire, it connected north Persia (modern-day Iran) to Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). The Persian Road was maintained with a system of postal stations and gradually expanded into the Indian sub-continent across Mesopotamia and into Egypt.  

Howard County Library System and the Walters Art Museum present a fascinating class that looks at works from the Walters Art Museum that illuminate the expansive story of the Silk Road. 

May 17 from 12 – 1 pm. Register here.  

A manuscript page with Arabic script at the top, featuring a shade tree, bamboo, and a man in a turban studying with writing tools surrounding him. A smaller figure kneels in the bottom right hand cornder.

The term “Silk Road” wasn’t coined until 1877, when German geographer and historian Ferdinand von Richthofen first used it to describe the trade routes. Historians now prefer the term “Silk Routes,” which more accurately reflects the fact that there was more than one thoroughfare. 

Many different goods including gunpowder, precious stones, and ivory were traded along this route; however, it was the exotic silk that gave its name to this road. Many of the goods traded across this route had a great impact on the cultural development of the world. Paper and gunpowder, both developed in China, and the rich spices from India contributed to both European culture and warfare. Similarly, techniques for making glass migrated eastward to China from the Islamic world. However, silk continued to be the most sought-after and expensive commodity, especially in Rome. The Byzantine emperor Justinian (327-565 CE) sent emissaries to steal the closely guarded secret of silk and bring it back to initiate the Byzantine silk industry. In 1453 CE, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire which closed the Silk Road and cut ties with the west.  

The legacy of the Silk Road is the impact on art, religion, technology, science, and language that fostered a growth and enrichment of world civilization. Unfortunately, disease also traveled along and the bubonic plague of 542 CE was thought to have spread to Constantinople via the Silk Road. Famous Italian explorer Marco Polo traveled overland on the Silk Road to the Mongol Empire ruled by Kublai Khan in 1275 and wrote the epic The Travels of Marco Polo (also available as an eBook from Libby/OverDrive). 

The closing of the Silk Road in 1453 forced traders to explore sea routes and discover new ports. This was the beginning of the Age of Discovery which led to a new era with the rise of seafaring nations. Join us for the class with a docent from The Walters Art Museum to learn more.

Namaste, Howard County

A group of people in winter coats and masks stand in front of a white pop-up tent, from which hangs a red banner that read Indian Cultural Association.

by Rohini G.

I volunteer with the food pantry run by the Indian Cultural Association (ICA) and I’d like to share a little bit of what I see in the parking lot at HCLS Miller Branch. Just the other day while we were unloading boxes, a lady walked up to me. She had come to pick up books at the library and was curious about the long line of cars. When I told her about the boxes of food – milk, eggs, meat, fresh produce, that ICA was prepping to deliver, she quickly got into the line. After about five minutes she beckoned me to her car, and her mother, or mother-in-law, and her young son were with her. She asked how much she’d have to pay for the food, and I told her – it’s free. She looked away and mumbled something that I didn’t quite understand. I said, “Excuse me?” She looked up and said that her family hadn’t had a proper meal in three days. That look of desperation in her eyes is imprinted on my brain. 

That is why cars start lining up hours in advance of the start time even in bitter cold. When the food distribution starts, the cars flow through non-stop and all four loading stations are constantly busy. The folks in that line represent a wide diversity – from older couples to families with kids in car seats. In that parking lot we see all the shades of skin color – both in the cars collecting food as well as among the volunteers loading the boxes into the cars. More than 350 volunteers help ICA distribute the food. The way ICA is bringing the community together gives me a lot of hope for our future.  

The Indian Cultural Association’s mission is to introduce and enhance the vibrant culture and heritage of India through various programs. A fledgling organization, it was incorporated in 2018 by Sanjay and Niti Srivastava. ICA has been working to help put food on the table of families in our community and alleviate hunger among so many affected by the pandemic. Niti shares some surprising statistics, “Nearly 28% of Howard Countians are food insecure, meaning they are not certain about where their next meal will come from or they will be making a choice between paying essential bills or buying food for their families. 1 in 4 children and 1 in 6 adults are food insecure. You will be surprised to learn that these are 2018 figures”.  

Inspired by the core philosophy of Seva, or selfless service to those in need, ICA has distributed more than 1,600,000 pounds to date (and counting) of food to more than 100,000 hungry families. ICA has distributed more food to Howard County residents than the Howard Food Bank during the pandemic.  

The food pantry by The Indian Cultural Association. 

Working in tandem with community organizations, Howard County Library System has been tirelessly engaged in supporting and assisting our customers and our community through this troubling year. These efforts have included lending Chromebooks and hotspots to enhance digital learning as well as supporting food pantries to address food insecurity among Howard County households. One of our most valuable partners in this effort at mitigating hunger has been The Indian Cultural Association (ICA) of Howard County. 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

At Noon: Poetry Moments

The photograph depicts poet laureate Joy Harjo wearing a bright red shirt and blue jeans, with her tattooed hand across her knee and a turquoise bracelet on her wrist.
Photograph of poet laureate Joy Harjo by Paul Abdoo

by Susan Thornton Hobby and Rohini Gupta

Have lunch with the poets during National Poetry Month.

I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me: they are about questions.” — Lucille Clifton

Lots of people think they need to know what a poem means. Sometimes professors and experts dissect a poem so much that a poem dies before we allow it to live. But what if a poem was written not to answer questions, but to ask them?

Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award-winning poet, wrote from her home office in a townhouse in Columbia for decades until her death in 2010. And she never stopped asking questions with her poetry.

Sometimes, when we talk about poetry, people’s eyes glaze over. Occasionally (or more often) poetry just seems impenetrable. But it doesn’t have to be. Clifton’s poetry is accessible, understood at a first reading, with meaning that grows deeper with a second or third reading, prompting those questions that bring readers to her poetry over and over again.

Once we’ve hooked you with Clifton’s work, we have plenty of other ideas of where to start with poetry. Perhaps with Amanda Gorman’s performances at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and at the Super Bowl, more people are intrigued about poetry, but don’t really know where to go for good poetry beyond inspirational quotes on Instagram. We’ve got your poetry questions covered.

Soon after the Howard County Library’s Central Branch opened in 1981, Clifton read her poetry with three other amazing poets, William Stafford, Roland Flint, and current Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri. HoCoPoLitSo (Howard County Poetry and Literature Society) brought those poets and library customers together forty years ago, and we’re still collaborating today. Across those decades, we have together sponsored movies about Gwendolyn Brooks and Seamus Heaney, organized readings by poets such as Josephine Jacobsen and Stanley Kunitz, judged student poetry contests, and even staged a play about poet Emily Dickinson, “The Belle of Amherst.”

Since National Library Week (April 4-10) coincides with National Poetry Month in April, HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System thought it would be the perfect time to launch a new program. Every Tuesday in April, HoCoPoLitSo and the library collaborate to bring you a lunchtime buffet of poetry, virtually.

Join HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System for their newest program, a lunch break of poetry every Tuesday in April. At Noon: Poetry Moments. Register here.

When the pandemic closed everyone’s doors, HoCoPoLitSo created a new video series, both to reach out to people at home who were hungry for the arts, and to amplify the voices of Black poets who have visited HoCoPoLitSo audiences since 1974. With the help of Howard Community College’s Arts Collective, and director Sue Kramer, we produced the Poetry Moment series. Local actors Chania Hudson, Shawn Sebastian Naar, and Sarah Luckadoo offer introductions, then famous poets like Clifton and Kunitz and Heaney and Brooks read their work, with selections extracted from archival video. Ellen Conroy Kennedy, the late founding director and heart and soul of HoCoPoLitSo, started this archive in 1986 when she began documenting the poetry and literature programs she was producing. The Writing Life resulted, with more than 100 full interviews with authors carried on HoCoPoLitSo’s YouTube page.

In April, every Tuesday at noon, we’ll gather virtually to talk poetry. We’ve grouped the poems by theme for each week, and will talk a little about poetry, then watch the videos together and discuss.

Here’s our poetry hit parade:

April 6: We’ll talk about grief, something many people are dealing with this year. Poems we’ll be discussing include “Elegy” by Linda Pastan, “My Deepest Condiments” by Taylor Mali, and “The Long Boat” by Stanley Kunitz.

April 13: History is this week’s theme, and we’ll talk about Sterling Allen Brown’s “Southern Road,” read by poet Toi Derricotte, “In the Tradition” by Amiri Baraka, and “Requiem” by Anna Akhmatova, read by poet Carolyn Forché.

April 20: Many contemporary poets turn to their families as sources for poetry. The poems we’ll read this week are “good times” by Lucille Clifton, “The Pomegranate” by Eavan Boland, and “A Final Thing” by Li-Young Lee.

April 27: Our last week is centered on pep talks in poetry, verse to lift us up and give us strength. We’ll discuss “The Solstice” by W. S. Merwin, “For Every One” by Jason Reynolds, and “I Give You Back” by Joy Harjo.

HoCoPoLitSo and the HCLS are happy to collaborate in bringing poetry to all who ask questions, to any who believe, like we do, that words can change the world.

If we hook you on poetry, consider tuning in to the April 29 Blackbird Poetry Festival, featuring Ilya Kaminsky and sponsored by Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo.

Register for the HCLS lunch poetry programs At Noon: Poetry Moments.

Susan Thornton Hobby is a proud library volunteer and HoCoPoLitSo board member and consultant, and with the library’s support, she coordinated this April poetry feast. Rohini Gupta is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS.

What is Home? asks Brandon Hobson

The book cover depicts a woodsy scene in grays and blues, with a lone figure inverted on a path in the center, framed by three interlocking triangles in pink, green, and gold.

by Rohini G.

Brandon Hobson, author of The Removed, believes that good fiction starts with a question. 

“The big question here was how do we grieve, and how do we heal. But I’m also interested in the question of what is home?” Examining these questions is the starting place for his writing, Hobson says in an interview with Zibby Owens.  

In The Removed, Hobson hauntingly weaves together two strands. First is the story of personal loss experienced by the Echota family; second, the devastating loss experienced by the Cherokee Nation – the traumatic heritage of the Trail of Tears, the forced removal by the U.S. government from 1830 to 1850 of an estimated 100,000 indigenous people (including Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, among other nations) from their homes. 

After fifteen years, the Echotas are still struggling to come to terms with the death of their son, Ray-Ray, who was killed in a police shooting at the mall. Maria tries to keep the flame of remembrance alive for her son, as she deals with her husband Ernest’s struggle with Alzheimers, son Edgar’s meth use, and daughter Sonja’s detachment. As the family’s annual bonfire approaches – an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death – Maria takes in a foster child, Wyatt. Buoyant and quirky, Wyatt is a born storyteller, spinning gripping tales about snakes and birds and an underworld, called the Darkening Land. 

While reading this book, I was enthralled with the way Hobson shifted perspective with each character and got into the skin of that person, especially Tsala, a Cherokee spirit who tells a story of his own murder for refusing to be removed. Written in a lyrical, minimalistic style, The Removed is a a powerful story, a profound yet quick read, available in book format and also as an eaudiobook and ebook from Libby/OverDrive. 

Hear author Brandon Hobson in person on Wednesday, March 10. For information, click here.

The book cover depicts a stylized eagle in black silhouette with outstretched wings against an orange background, with a single feather fallen to the ground beneath.

Hobson is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, with a PhD in English and seven years’ experience as a social worker for disadvantaged youth. His previous book, Where the Dead Sit Talking (also available as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive) was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction and winner of the Reading the West Book Award. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and teaches in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.