April is Autism Awareness Month and also National Poetry Month. Plus it contains National Library Week, which happens to be this week. So tonight I’m hosting Audacious April—A Celebration of Autism, Poetry and Libraries at the Livermore Civic Center Library. I’ve invited Matteo Musso, a barely verbal autistic teen and a terrific poet, to join me. Matteo uses the Rapid Prompting Method (like my daughter Katie) to spell out what he wants to say on a letterboard. He’s written three books this way.
But before we get to all the autism goodness, I will present a poem that I wrote in honor of our awesome library. Paul (aka the library guy) can barely contain his excitement. Which put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. Pressure and creativity do not play well together. At least not in my house.
So this poem was a tough one to write. I hope Paul enjoys it.
ODE TO THE LIVERMORE LIBRARY
How many places can take you backward and forward in time,
can transport you to a coffee plantation in Kenya, after hours
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the slopes of Kilimanjaro,
a segregated courtroom in Alabama, a phantom tollbooth,
a Columbian riverboat with the woman for whom you waited
60 years, the Yorkshire moors, or a sod house on the prairie?
Solve a crime in Sweden, hunt a mighty whale, flounder in
a Chippewa love triangle, transcend time and identity on both
sides of the Pacific, endure as a slave, learn magic at Hogwarts,
fly kites in Kabul, live in a mouse-infested trailer in Arches, survive
a tsunami in Sri Lanka, brave artistic expression as a Hasidic Jew,
serve as a red-robed handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.
Flee the Dust Bowl, steal books in Nazi Germany, ride a sand worm across
the deserts of Dune, marry and lose three husbands, rescue a coworker
from cannibals in the Amazon, explore the Ninemile Valley with wolves,
unravel mysteries with Watson, plant Sun Crest peaches in the Central Valley.
Grow up poor or rich; gay, straight or queer; get sick, get well;
experience disability, infertility, catastrophic stroke, or mental illness.
Where else can you explore the farthest reaches of the universe and still
be home in time for dinner? Borrow tools, rent DVDs, access the internet,
take a workshop, learn to read, see art, meet an author or a friend?
Study quantum physics, statistics, sociology, even poetry?
Geography, astronomy, paleontology—it’s all here, and more.
Anything you can imagine, you can experience at the library.
Can you name all the books I mention in the poem? Quiz yourself and let me know your score. The answers are listed below.
Until next time,
BOOKS MENTIONED IN THE POEM
Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen
The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg
The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories, by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup
Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala
My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
The Ninemile Wolves, by Rick Bass
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Epitaph For a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, by David M. Masumoto
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir, by Wendy Burden
Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir, by Charles M. Blow
The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and More, by Janet Mock
A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science & Cancer, by Mary Elizabeth Williams
Just Breathe Normally, by Peggy Shumaker
Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy and The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism, by Naoki Higashida
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood, by Belle Boggs
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, by Kay Redfield Jamison
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking