• Recent Posts

  • CLP_Teens

    Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

  • Blog Categories

  • Archives

  • April 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb    


A mad dash through all sorts of love, courtesy of 11 fine poets (named at the end of the post!). It’s a scientific fact that love poems can keep you warm in a snowstorm (it’s not a fact.)  Check some out at the library today – they’re great inspiration for writing your own. After all, the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest is coming up.

“I didn’t fall in love. I fell through it:

“I can see what I would miss in leaving—

1: Sarah Manguso
2: Lorna Dee Cervantes
3: Melanie Almeder
4: Tony Hoagland
5: June Jordan
6: Anna Swir
7: Monica Youn
8: Reginald Shepherd
9: Thomas Hardy
10: Ella Wheeler Wilcox
11: Dean Young
– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

Black History Month Spotlights Return to CLP Carrick!

Every Tuesday in February last year, CLP Carrick’s weekly teen program, Teen Thing, focused on a different African American pioneer with a creative activity related to the accomplishments of said pioneer.  We made stop-motion zombie flicks in honor of Duane Jones, flipbook comics for Frank Braxton, 3D glasses for Valerie Thomas, and watched a documentary about the arts scene in Brooklyn in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

It was all pretty awesome.

So… when the topic of continuing the weekly Black History Month events came up this January, Teen Think, Carrick’s Teen Advisory Group, voted unanimously to continue the spotlights with this year’s theme of music.  Throughout February, Teen Thing will be spotlighting innovative and influential African American musicians who have significantly contributed to the sounds of rock, jazz, punk, and hip hop – and it all starts this week!

Tuesday, February 4th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Blues and Early Rock and Roll

The mysterious Robert Johnson

Into artists like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Jack White, and The Black Keys??? Come find out about the African American blues and rock musicians that influenced them – artists like Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry.

Oh, and make your own harmonica while you’re at it!

Other events include:

Tuesday, February 11th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: All That Jazz

Pittsburgh’s Mary Lou Williams

Tuesday, February 18th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Punk 101 – Bad Brains

Washington D.C.’s legendary Bad Brains

Tuesday, February 25th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Hip Hop and Change

Saul Williams

Find out where the music you like comes from at our Black History Month Spotlights!  Teen Thing happens every Tuesday afternoon from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM and is open to anyone in grades 6-12 or age 12-18.

Jon : Carrick

Winter as Metaphor

Even though we have had several inches (about 18 inches) of snow this season, winter is just beginning!  According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter  begins at 12:11 PM on December 21st.  Winter, like all of the seasons, has its lovers and haters.  Personally, fall is my favorite season, but winter has to be my second most favorite.  I like cold weather and I love walking in fresh snow, especially at night. 189884_1845951477408_4735855_n Is winter harsh and bleak?  Or beautiful and full of joy?  The answers to those questions can be found in poetry.  Yes, poetry.  The mystery and wonder of winter can be found by reading poetry.  Poets often use one  of the elements of the winter season as a metaphor in their poems.  The bare trees and fields.  The cold winds.  The short days and long nights.  The snow. 563232_10200782434472075_1505638863_n Two of my favorite winter poems come from the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology series.  The first one is from 2008. Crystal Blankets by Valesha Edwards

My eyes glued to a winter wonderland

Crisp, chilling breeze blusters and flows

Light, white flakes whispering off to new regions

I gaze transfixed on an earth blanketed with white crystals

Delicate flakes with unique shapes weave gracefully from a somber sky

Amazing how simple white crystals disclose joy in me

How beautiful, yet simple white crystals enlighten a person,

is one of life’s vast mysteries 65286_10200641321184331_1790025591_n

The second one comes from 2011. Sparsile by Annie Utterback

November the barber

sweeps with the wind,

collecting his trimmings

on the forest floor.

I left my tree house

in its snug red jacket,

but the compass is a circle

and she’s led me here before.

I don’t want to meet you,

Miss Argyle Winter.

My friends have all vanished.

I’ve nowhere to go.

With your blanketed blizzards

and white woolen mittens,

I can’t seem to distinguish

man from snow.

The forest Manhattan,

its trees all the same,

our faces are blank,

our branches are bare.

The city is night,

We’re all constellations.

You need no map to find me.

I cut my own hair.

For more information about the Ralph Munn Creative Writing program click here. Happy Winter Solstice!  Winter is here whether you love it or hate it. ~Marian

Mix It Up–Poetry and Art

Are you the creative type?  There are soooo many Teen programs to choose from @ your neighborhood libraries. For a complete list of activities and programs, see the CLP Teens Events page.

Teen Time:  Mix It Up–Poetry and Art

September 24, 2013 @ 5:30 PM  CLP–Mt. Washington

Let’s mix it up with a block out poetry collage that combines poetry and art in one creative project.  Start with a page or passage from a book.  It can be any kind of book.  A comic book.  A telephone book.  Even a newspaper or magazine will work for this project.

Find a page in a used book, newspaper or magazine that you don’t need anymore.  Rip out the page that you want to use.


Make a copy of the page using a photocopy machine or printer.


Type and print your passage using Word or Publisher.  If you choose this method, you can get really creative with font size and styles.

Read your passage and select the words that you need to write your poem.  Using a marker, block out the words that you don’t need and leave the words you do need to create your poem.  If you typed your passage, you could use the strike-out or highlight functions to write your poem your poem.

photo (3)

Glue your blocked out poem to a piece of cardstock or watercolor paper.  If you want, you could use a wood plaque.  These can be found in craft stores.  Use watercolor paint, markers or colored pencils to add some flair and context to your poem.  Are you feeling blue or sun shiny yellow?

Finish your mixed up project using collage techniques to add creative elements.  Cut out pictures and words from magazines.  Decorate your piece using stickers, ribbon, duct tape, glitter and paint.  There are no rules!


photo (1)

For more collage ideas, I highly recommend the following books:

Collage Playground:  A Fresh Approach to Creating Mixed-Media Art by Kimberly Santiago

Collage Unleashed:  Paint. Bind. Stitch. Play. by Traci Bautista

Mixed-Media Paint Box:  Weekly Projects for a Year of Creative Exploration by Tonia Davenport

Vision Box Idea Book:  Mixed Media Projects for Crafting the Life of Your Dreams by Mark Montano


Just remember to mix it up!  There are no rules!  Get creative and have fun!


“Oblique Strategies” for Reviving Creativity

Oblique Strategy
Lately, in the midst of promoting our Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest, I’ve been thinking about all of the aspects in a teen’s life that can impede creativity. Is the impulse just not there? Perhaps its there but is just being diverted? I wonder if any of these seem familiar:

Enter Brian Eno…

Brian Eno glam

(b Woodbridge, 15 May 1948). English composer and producer. While attending art school in Ipswich and then Winchester he developed an interest in ‘systems’ music, and much of his work can be seen as continuing the work of composers such as John Cage. He first worked professionally from 1970 to 1973 with the seminal art-rock band Roxy Music, lending their first two albums, Roxy Music (Island, 1972) and For Your Pleasure (Island, 1973), a quirky surrealist edge. By treating the group’s live sound electronically with a tape recorder and VC5 3 synthesizer, he defined a role for himself as an ‘aural collagist’. After leaving Roxy Music in 1973, Eno developed this interest in the timbral quality of music further with the albums No Pussy Footing (Island, 1973; with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp) and the seminal Another Green World (Island, 1975), the latter a brilliant combination of quirky songs and pastoral instrumentals. In 1975 his interest in aleatory music led him to produce with Peter Schmidt ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards, a collection of ‘over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas’, which formed a sort of musical tarot, each card containing a directive on how to proceed to the next creative stage. He then collaborated on three of David Bowie’s most innovatory albums (Low, ‘Heroes’ and Lodger), produced new-wave bands such as Talking Heads and Devo, and released two important ambient instrumental albums, Music for Films (EG, 1978) and Music for Airports (EG, 1979).

Info from our Grove Music Online database of music.

Basically, Brian Eno is a creative genius who is one of the most important musical artists of the seventies. And he’s a critically important part of making the following scene happen (you might remember it).

What I want to focus on today are the “Oblique Strategies” cards, which are a great legacy to leave to people of any creative persuasion.

Brian Eno and his artist friend Peter Schmidt had discovered that they both developed a set of working principles for whenever they were getting creatively stuck under pressure. They mixed, matched, meditated, and ultimately developed a deck of cards with ideas designed to move the creative process forward.

Whenever you’re stuck within a creative activity, draw a card, read it, and trust it.

oblique box

While the original cards are long out of print, and while recent reincarnations are fairly expensive, some Eno historians have made electronic copies available to any creative adventurers. Check out this colorful web recreation. And, of course, there’s an app for that (and for Android, too).

Happy creating!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

Presidential Poetry



If you caught any of the coverage of the presidential inauguration ceremony on Monday, you might have noticed poet Richard Blanco joining the lineup of super VIPs like Barack Obama and Beyoncé. Blanco stood before the crowd of one million to read his poem “One Today,” which he composed just for the occasion.

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

Although several presidents have commissioned inaugural poems in the past, Richard Blanco is only the sixth inaugural poet in U.S. history. The first president to include poetry in his inaugural event was John F. Kennedy, who asked Robert Frost to read his poem “The Gift Outright” during the 1961 ceremony.  In 1977, the poet James Dickey shared “The Strength of Fields” during the inaugural ball for Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton invited poets to participate in both of his inaugural ceremonies—Maya Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” in 1993 and Miller Williams read “Of History and Hope” in 1997. For President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, he invited his friend Elizabeth Alexander to write and read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” during the ceremony.

Occasional poems like these are meant to commemorate a significant event or occasion by invoking the emotions and impressions of that moment in time. Many inaugural poets have used the opportunity to reflect on the last four years and look ahead to the future. Intrigued by this literary challenge, Yahoo! News recently asked six poets (including movie star James Franco) to compose a new poem for the occasion of Obama’s second inauguration. The resulting poems represent an array of unique viewpoints and reflections on the President and the nation’s past and future. You can check them out here.

If perusing this presidential poetry has moved you to try your hand at some occasional poetry of your own, inspiration is all around. Write a poem to commemorate a birthday, a break-up, or the inauguration of the weekend. Need more ideas or poetic guidance? The library is packed with poetry-writing resources!

RipthePageseeingtheblueThe Art and Craft of Poetry






Ancient philosophers with dangerous ideas! Lucretius and De Rerum Natura

For the last four months, I  very slowly was reading through one book of poetry. Admittedly, this is a long book, comprised of six smaller “books” (or chapters, if you will), and I wanted to take my time and not rush through it.

De Rerum Natura, or On the Nature of Things was written by a poet-scientist-philosopher by the name of Lucretius, sometime in the 1st century BC. Very little is known about Lucretius: when exactly he was born, when he died,  when he wrote the poem, who exactly he wrote it for, etc. etc.  What we do know from his writing is that he was a disciple of the philosopher Epicurus. You may know him by the word that was derived from his name/philosophy – epicurean, meaning “fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating and drinking.” (Also the inspiration for recipe-aggregator Epicurious)

Only a bit of what Epicurus wrote remains in the world, which makes De Rerum Natura extra important. Even more important is that it’s beautiful to read, and still moving as a piece of writing. While Lucretius explains the way the world is made of atoms, how that relates to the soul, and now-wacky theories about how the sun rising comes from a collection of “fire seeds” and how earthquakes are caused by collapsing caves on the inside of the Earth, he’s also paying close attention to metaphor and language, and making it something that one would want to read.


In fact, the original discovery of the manuscript of De Rerum Natura was made by chance, and a re-discovery in much the same way led to its reader, Stephen Greenblatt, writing a book on how he was affected and why the ideas in the poem are still important. That book is called The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, and this is some of what Greenblatt has to say about Lucretius

“Lucretius, who was born about a century before Christ, was emphatically not our contemporary. He thought that worms were spontaneously generated from wet soil, that earthquakes were the result of winds caught in underground caverns, that the sun circled the earth. But, at its heart, “On the Nature of Things” persuasively laid out what seemed to be a strikingly modern understanding of the world.” –  from an interview in The New Yorker.

“It’s a theory of everything. That is its glory and perhaps its absurdity. It tried to say what the nature of everything was.

And it had at its center an ancient idea, wasn’t invented by the poet, but actually by philosophers before him. But the whole theory was, in effect, lost, except for this poem. And the theory is that the world consists of an infinite number of tiny particles.

The ancient Greeks called them the things that can’t be broken up, and the word for that was atoms. …these were dangerous ideas, especially as Christianity took hold.” – from PBS

Why would his ideas be dangerous? Because they went against established (or what were beginning to be established) religious ideas – “. …Epicurus taught that all things were made of atoms, including the human soul, which was consequently as mortal as the body. He taught that though the gods exist, in a blissful state to be imitated by mortals, they neither created the physical world nor intervened in it. The clear aim of these teachings, together with the injunctions to avoid public life and cultivate moderate pleasure, was the elimination of all anxiety regarding human life and all fear of death and the supernatural. Little wonder that both the Roman political establishment and later the Christian church regarded Epicureanism as a dangerous threat.” – from Poetry.com


But don’t take my word for it – sample some of De Rerum Natura‘s wonderfully dour explanations of death, from Anthony Esolen’s really great translation:

“And now, so crippled is our age, that the earth,
Worn out by labor, scarce makes tiny creatures–
Which once made all, gave birth to giant beasts.
For I find it hard to believe that a golden cord
From heaven let living things down into the fields,
Or they were made by the stone-splashing waves of the sea;
The same earth gendered then that now gives food.
What’s more, at first she made, of her own prompting,
The glossy corn and the glad vine for us mortals,
And gave, of her own, sweet offspring and glad pasture.
Yet these now hardly grow for all our work:
We sweat our oxen thin and the strength of our farmhands
We crush; for our fields the plow is not enough.
So full of labor and so spare of birth!

Now the old plowman shakes his head and sighs
That all of his hard work has come to nothing,
Compares the present days to days gone by
And over and over touts his father’s luck.
Disheartened, the planter of stooped and shriveled vines
Curses this bent of our age, and rattles on
With his reproach: our elders, full of reverence,
managed to live with ease in narrow bounds,
With much less acreage to a man; he doesn’t
Grasp that, slowly, wasting away, all things
Go to the tomb, worn out by the long years.” (II, 1149-1173)

Don’t want to read the whole thing? Check out an illustrated excerpt in The graphic canon. Volume 1 : from the epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous liaisons, edited by Russ Kick.



– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

%d bloggers like this: