UIUC Poetry Spotlight: Professor Corey Van Landingham

Corey Van Landingham is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English. A nationally acclaimed poet, she is the author of Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens, forthcoming from Tupelo Press, and Antidote, winner of the 2012 The Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. To learn more about Professor Van Landingham, please visit her website https://www.coreyvanlandingham.com.

Watch Professor Corey Van Landingham read selections from Brigit Pegeen Kelly on our Instagram. She offers her reflections below:

For National Poetry Month, I wanted to pick two poems that are connected to the C-U community. Brigit Pegeen Kelly taught here at UIUC for many years, and is still, it seems, part of the soul of this program, this place. Brigit and her husband, the poet Mike Madonick (mentioned in the poem’s dedication tag), have shaped hundreds of poets here in the prairie. I never met Brigit, but Song was the first book I read during my MFA, and her work has left a deep mark on me—as it has on so many poets of my generation. I can’t go to Allerton without seeing her poems almost materialize amidst the statues. I’ll often wonder, driving through the cornfields, if the rare “hill” I see is one from her poems. Brigit’s poems do that—I might say all great poems do—they make you see the world differently. They change the relationship between language and landscape. They heighten it, and they trouble it.

“Near the Race Track” is from her first book, To the Place of Trumpets. This poem is wildly different from her later work, from the long poems that cascade and build and weave and repeat to create, across many pages, their own mythic worlds. I’ve heard those worlds aren’t so distant, though, that what may seem mythic or surreal or magical is often grounded in something from her very own surroundings, her life. “Near the Race Track” isn’t set here, but, because of Brigit and Mike, I can’t help but associate it with Illinois. There are few poems about joy that I care to return to. Here, it’s the way joy can be a spectacle to behold, but also something that can rise away from us—that’s what makes me come back to this poem again and again. That, and picturing Mike cursing with that umbrella in hand.

It doesn’t feel right to spend too much time here discussing my own work, when in Brigit’s realm. “O-Matoes” revolves around the desire to catch something of joy, though, and originated from getting to know one of our truly joyous neighbors here in Champaign. This poem is, as is probably obvious, for Caleb, who is six.

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New Resource Spotlight: Project Muse Literature Ebook Collection

Exciting news! The UIUC library recently acquired Project Muse’s 2020 and 2021 Literature eBook collection. The collections are international in scope, represent the highest quality scholarship published by academic presses throughout the United States, and include literary criticism and literary theory, biographies of authors, and fiction/poetry from before 1950.

In total, this acquisition includes approximately 700 titles, providing patrons with convenient access to new and relevant scholarship. Access Project Muse through UIUC here.

These ebooks are now available to browse and read.  You can find a full list of the titles in each collection here.

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New Fiction Spotlight: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Cover art for the Secret Lives of Church Ladies

“I don’t question God,” declares the titular character of “Eulah,” the first story in The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

“But maybe you should question the people who taught you this version of God. Because it’s not doing you any favors,” the narrator replies.

This exchange is at the crux of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection. The collection is full of hope, heartbreak, hunger, and love. Its protagonists find themselves torn between the demands of church and family and those of their own bodies. They wrestle with their appetites, illicit or otherwise, and usually come out on top in one way or another.

The nine stories that make up The Secret Lives of Church Ladies span a wide array of turbulent and fascinating relationships with mothers, fathers, sisters, and lovers. In “Dear Sister,” a woman writes a letter to the half-sister she’s never met to inform her of the death of their father. In “Snowfall,” the narrator struggles to adjust to both the realities of living in a northern climate and her mother’s disavowal of her relationship with another woman.

Despite these tumultuous relationships, the stories are full of comfort—offered from sister to sister, daughter to mother, and lover to lover. These offerings are often in the form of food, whether it be homemade, fast-food, or frozen.

One of the collection’s most powerful stories, for example, is “Peach Cobbler,” which begins: “My mother’s peach cobbler was so good, it made God himself cheat on his wife.” Like many in the collection, “Peach Cobbler” deals with infidelity, unhealthy relationships, and the ache to be loved with wry humor and compassion.

Each story is told in the first-person, lending the collection a powerful intimacy. The reader is left feeling as though they really have been let in on the secret lives of these powerful storytellers. In The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Philyaw paints nuanced portraits of vulnerable and resilient women who rely upon each other and create communities worth treasuring.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is available now at the Literatures and Languages Library.

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Resource Spotlight: African American Poetry

This week, we are spotlighting one of our databases, which highlights African Americans’ contributions to American literature: African American Poetry

This comprehensive collection allows you to explore the extraordinary early history of African American poetry. This database includes over 3,000 poems from the 18th and 19th centuries, capturing a wide array of subjects and experiences, and relating them as broadsides, ballads, sonnets, Romantic odes, and historical epics. 

And the lives of the poets whose work is featured in African American Poetry were often as riveting as their work. Explore the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, who was abducted from West Africa at a young age, sold as a slave in Boston, and went on to become “one of the major American poets of the Colonial period.” The piercing intelligence, mastery of allusion, and stirring pathos evident in her work led to her becoming the first African-American and the second American woman to publish a volume of poetry.

Or delve into the verses of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a staunch abolitionist, suffragist, and one of the first African-American women to publish a novel (Iola Leroy, in 1892). Her political activism is particularly evident in her poetry, which often showcased the horrors of slavery through the lens of motherhood. Her powerful “The Slave Mother, a Tale of the Ohio,” was based on the same real-life events that inspired Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved.

The final stanza of Harper’s moving “Bury Me in a Free Land” reads:

 I ask no monument, proud and high

To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;

All that my yearning spirit craves,

Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

African American Poetry also includes the work of Lucy Terry Prince, Jupiter Hammon, James Monroe Whitfield, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and many more early African American poets. Access African American Poetry here and here.

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Reading Recommendations For Native American Heritage Month

“I’ve been taught bloodstones can cure a snakebite / can stop the bleeding—most people forgot this / when the war ended.” So begins the titular work of Postcolonial Love Poem, the latest  collection from award-winning poet Natalie Diaz. 

November is Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian Heritage Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting a few recently published works by Indigenous authors in our collection. The books linked below are as unique and multifaceted as the cultures they depict. They explore such ideas as reconciliation, dream-sharing, feminine power, resilience, and what it means to create a home. They grapple with trauma, violence, and racism in turn, but they are also touched with a deep sense of hope and love.

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age By: Darrel McLeod

As a small boy in remote Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod is immersed in his Cree family’s history, passed down in the stories of his mother, Bertha. There he is surrounded by her tales of joy and horror. And there young Darrel learns to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that will guide him throughout his life.

But after a series of tragic losses, Bertha turns wild and unstable, and their home life becomes chaotic. Mamaskatch traces McLeod’s struggles to keep his life and family together, and come to terms with his sexual identity, amidst violence and chaos. 

 

Postcolonial Love Poem By: Natalie Diaz

Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

Sabrina & Corina By: Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.

In “Sugar Babies,” ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. “Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In “Tomi,” a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.

Rebel Poet (Continuing the Oral Tradition): more stories from the 21st century Indian By: Louis V. Clark III (Two Shoes)

This eagerly anticipated follow-up to the breakout memoir How to Be an Indian in the 21st Century delves more deeply into the themes of family, community, grief, and the struggle to make a place in the world when your very identity is considered suspect. In Rebel Poet: More Stories from a 21st Century Indian, author Louis Clark examines the effects of his mother’s alcoholism and his young sister’s death, offers an intimate recounting of the backlash he faced as an Indian on the job, and celebrates the hard-fought sense of home he and his wife have created. Rebel Poet continues the author’s tradition of seamlessly mixing poetry and prose, and is at turns darker and more nuanced than its predecessor

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Looking for Something to Read? Try These Titles!

Undecided on what to read next? Stuck in a reading slump? We can help! Here are some recommendations you can find in the library catalog:

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

book cover: a woman in a vintage red dress stands in front of a green background

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Click for catalog link.

 

If you’re looking for a book to keep you up at night, Mexican Gothic is the perfect choice. When Noemí receives a worrying letter from her cousin, she travels to High Place, where Catalina lives with her husband and his strange family, the Doyles. When strange dreams and happenings begin to plague her, Noemí suspects there is more to High Place than meets the eye. Mexican Gothic is an eerie, gothic tale of horror that will leave you thoroughly spooked.

 

 

 

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

cover art for dear edward. click for catalog link

Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano. Click for catalog link.

 

When Edward boards a plane to Los Angeles with his family, the last thing he expects is for it to crash–and to leave him as the only survivor. He goes to live with his aunt and uncle, where, over the course of many years, he tries to find his place and purpose in the world. A haunting coming-of-age story, Dear Edward is a breathtaking tale that will leave you thinking about it for days to come.

 

 

 

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

cover art for the stationery shop. click for catalog link

The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali. Click for catalog link.

The year is 1953. Roya loves the stationery shop owned by Mr. Fakhri. It’s her oasis in Tehran, a place she can feel safe. When she’s set up by self-proclaimed matchmaker Mr. Fakhri, a beautiful romance blooms between her and another customer, Bahman. On the day before they’re to be married, they agree to meet in the town square, though due to a coup, they are unable to meet. After attempts to contact Bahman fail, Roya moves on with her life, but years later, fate brings Roya and Bahman together again. And this time, Roya is determined to know what happened all those years ago. If you like literary fiction with a slice of romance, The Stationery Shop is a perfect choice.

 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

cover art for the secret history

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Click for catalog link.

 

Maybe you’re interested in the dark side of academia. If so, The Secret History is a great choice. When Richard leaves his hometown to attend Hampden College, he finds himself introduced to an elite group of Classics scholars, led by the enigmatic Julian Morrow. Soon, though, he finds himself embroiled in a plot to murder one of their own: a fellow student, Bunny. Told through flashbacks leading up to Bunny’s death, The Secret History is a chilling work of fiction deserving of its bestseller status.

 

 

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

cover art of djinn patrol on the purple line. click for catalog link

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, by Deepa Anappara. Click for catalog link.

 

Nine-year-old Jai considers himself to be one of the smartest kids at his school. So when one of his classmates goes missing, he’s determined to find him, believing the crime-solving skills he’s picked up from watching too much television will help solve the case. But when more children begin to go missing and the police force remains indifferent, Jai and his friends must confront a terrifying reality. Based on real disappearances occurring in metropolitan India, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is an emotional thriller sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Spooky Reads for Halloween

Happy Halloween! Whether you’re in the mood for haunted houses or cosmic horror, the library has all sorts of recommendations to get you into the Halloween spirit. To find the books in the library catalog, click the book title.

Happy reading!


Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

book cover featuring woman in red dress in front of a green patterned background

 

If Gothic horror is what you’re looking for, then Mexican Gothic is the right book for you! When Noemí Taboada receives a worrisome message from her cousin, she journeys to High Place, where her cousin lives with her new husband and his eccentric family. The longer she spends there, though, the more the walls seem to talk, as if the massive mansion itself is alive…

 

 

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

 

Wanting a classic tale within a Haunted House? Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House features unexplained phenomena, spooky happenings, and a house that just may claim one of its visitors as its own.

 

 

 

 

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe 

 

Edgar Allan Poe is the king of eerie, bone-chilling tales. Looking for classic horror? Try The Fall of the House of Usher, a story of an odd family within an even creepier home. Maybe you’re looking for something even more bone-chilling; if that’s the case, try The Tell-Tale Heart, or The Masque of the Red Death. Whatever story you choose, it’s sure to be perfect for a dark, Halloween night.

 

 

Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

 

 

Maybe this year, you want to read a vampire classic. Look no further than Carmilla, a story that predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If you want an eerie, romantic vampire story, Le Fanu’s novella is a perfect choice.

 

 

 

Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff

 

Maybe you want some cosmic horror to read on this Halloween night. If so, Lovecraft Country is the perfect choice. Blending Lovecraft’s monsters with fantasy and historical fiction, while also exploring terrors of life in Jim Crow America, Ruff’s acclaimed novel will keep you on the edge of your seat with every new chapter.

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Congratulations to Nobel Prize Recipient Louise Glück!

On October 8th, American poet Louise Glück was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. Congratulations!

portrait of poet louise glück

Louise Glück, recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature

Glück was awarded the prize “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” In addition to the Nobel, she has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and was the 2003-2004 poet laureate of the United States.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was first awarded in 1901 and is given out annually. The Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by Alfred Nobel; recipients are selected by the Swedish Academy based upon their body of work.

Interested in reading Louise Glück’s poetry? Many of her titles are available to check out at the library:

cover featuring plant life next to book title, the wild iris

The Wild Iris, by Louise Glück. Click for catalog link.

cover art of a road/highway on dark background

Faithful and Virtuous Night, by Louise Glück. Click for catalog link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover art of flowers and plants on a salmon background

The House on Marshland, by Louise Glück. Click for catalog link.

If you’d like to read other works by Louise Glück, you can find them here.

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Translating the Classics, Graphically

What’s on your to-read list?

If you’re anything like us, your to-read list is ever-expanding, as exciting new books jump the queue over hulking classics you’re a little embarrassed you haven’t read by now.

The internet is replete with articles like “Classic Novels Everyone Should Read” and “30 Classics You Should Read Before You Die.” These lists are populated by novels like Great Expectations, Moby Dick, and Animal Farm. Intimidating lists like these can discourage even the most intrepid reader.

Some people give up on the classics before they’ve truly started them, intimidated by their length or density. Others are skeptical of their relevance to modern life. Many more simply lack the time and energy to wade through “the great books.”

But while there is no required reading list for life, who among us would not like to know these classics? Or at least know them well enough to understand what’s so very “great” about them?

A page from Tim Hamilton’s graphic adaption of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

This is where the graphic adaptation comes in. This increasingly popular format blends words, panels, and illustrations to create a highly readable and accessible new work. Some of these graphic interpretations are so innovative and beautiful they could qualify as literary masterpieces in their own right.

A quick internet search will reveal that an astonishing number of literary classics have been adapted in this way. Everything from The Great Gatsby to Paradise Lost to The Stranger has received the graphic novel treatment.

And why not? Because they distill stories into essential dialogue and visuals, graphic novels are quick reads. They can thus provide fascinating introductions to topics, ideas, and even genres of literature a reader might have otherwise discounted as out of reach. In this way, a graphic adaptation can provide a point of entry to a whole new world of stories.

Have you read any great graphic adaptations of literary classics? If not, we’ve included 3 of our favorites below to help you get you started.

Thoreau at Walden, adapted by John Porcellino

 Each artist has their own interpretation of the text, and some books are more suited to the graphic treatment than others.  As in any adaptation, sometimes sacrifices have to be made to fit the new format.

John Porcellino’s Thoreau at Walden, for example, distills Henry David Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden Pond into its most essential lessons, telling the rest of the story through deceptively simple illustrations.

 

 

Meg, Jo Beth, and Amy, adapted by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo 

Some artists use graphic adaptations to put a modern spin on a much-beloved classic. Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy, for example, reimagines the March sisters as part of a multi-ethnic blended family coming up, and coming out, in modern-day New York City. It’s hard to imagine, Louisa May Alcott, a staunch abolitionist and feminist, would object to this adaptation of Little Women.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird, adapted by Fred Fordham

 In 2018, PBS launched an eight-part series called The Great American Read. The series was designed to get Americans reading and talking passionately about books, and encouraged viewers to cast their votes in determining America’s top 100 best-loved novels. The results were a fascinating mix of classic and modern titles included on many people’s to-read lists.

But America’s number one best-loved novel proved to be Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, a coming-of-age story told against the backdrop of simmering racial tensions in small town Alabama. If this classic is on your to-read list, check out Fred Fordham’s graphic adaptation, available in the Literatures and Languages Library’s very own collection.

 

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Celebrate Mary Shelley this August 30th!

August 30th is Mary Shelley’s birthday! There’s no better way to celebrate than to discuss her life, her accomplishments, and her lasting legacy.

painted portrait of mary shelley

Born to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin in 1797, Shelley was practically destined for greatness. Her parents were renowned philosophers, though her mother died soon after her daughter’s birth. Godwin took to educating Shelley, albeit unconventionally. Instead of traditional schooling, Godwin tutored her, taking her on educational adventures and exposing her to intellectuals through his connections as well as through their library.

Eventually–after her father remarried–Shelley was sent to Scotland. It was between trips to Scotland that she met the man she would ultimately marry: Percy Bysshe Shelley. The couple eloped in 1814.

painted portrait of percy shelley

In 1816, the couple traveled to Geneva with several other notable literary figures, including Lord Byron. While there, the group found themselves interested in German ghost stories, eventually challenging themselves to write spooky stories of their own.

This led to Shelley’s most famous work, Frankenstein, but its creation proved a bit of a challenge. When repeatedly asked what she’d be writing about, she frequently became frustrated, being “forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”

Soon enough an idea sprang to mind. Shelley recounts this moment–as well as her own account of Frankenstein’s creation–in the preface to the 1831 edition:

“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision,—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench for ever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.”

–Preface to Frankenstein

With an idea in mind, Shelley set out to write the short story that, when finished, would be the basis for Frankenstein. By 1817, she had finished writing the novel. It was published on New Year’s Day of 1818.

cover for mary shelley's frankenstein

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Click image for catalog link.

Frankenstein’s legacy endures today, and is Shelley’s most famous work. The literary and film world are filled with adaptations and retellings, and frequent references to the story–whether that be a legendary movie monster of the same name or a small, off-hand reference–can be found throughout the world. It’s a staple of Gothic literature and is, arguably, one of the first science-fiction novels ever written.

So, this August 30th, celebrate Mary Shelley by taking a peek at Frankenstein. If you’ve already read Frankenstein or are looking for something a little less spooky, you may also want to check out her other works, provided below.

For more information on Mary Shelley, click here.

the last man cover

The Last Man, by Mary Shelley. Click for catalog link.

Prosperine & Midas, by Mary Shelley. Click for catalog link.

valperga cover

Valperga, by Mary Shelley. Click for catalog link.

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