Transcript / LoLT: How to Find Your Favorite Poems and Two New Books — 28 April 2023

Transcript / LoLT: How to Find Your Favorite Poems and Two New Books — 28 April 2023

Friday, 28 April, 2023

This is a transcription of How to Find Your Favorite Poems and Two New Books — 28 April 2023’


[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, the story of how a lady detective saved Abraham Lincoln.

David: And a swashbuckling sea adventure.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: What I’m about to tell you is all true. In February 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln was on his way to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration. He was taking the train from Springfield, Illinois, with a transfer in Baltimore — where a secret cabal that opposed his anti-slavery stance planned to assassinate him. It was called The Baltimore Plot.

Melissa: But! The railroad company hired The Pinkerton Detective Agency to provide security. And they caught wind of the plan. Lincoln’s advisors changed his itinerary, and the evil plot was foiled.

Melissa: So, happy ending there. But this story gets even better. One of the Pinkerton detectives was a widow named Kate Warne. In 1856, she joined Chicago’s Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her colleagues respected her for her ability to wear convincing disguises and charm information out of people.

Melissa: To help get the scoop on the plot to assassinate Lincoln, she pretended to be a Southern belle from Alabama and ingratiated herself with the wives and sisters of the plotters. Her intel helped crack the case.

Melissa: Again, all of that is true and AMAZING! I’ll put links in show notes so you can delve into that.

Melissa: Now, onto the book. The new novel Never Sleep by Fred Van Lente tells a fictional account of these events. Kate is still the heart of the story, but in the world created by the author, she’s taken a new trainee under her wing, a young woman named Hattie. Poor Hattie! She only applied to the agency to be a SECRETARY, but soon she’s caught up in the mission to save the president. Publishers Weekly said the book’s ‘well-developed characters match the fast-paced plot.’

Melissa: I’d also like to mention that the book opens with a historical map of Baltimore – selling point! — and the title Never Sleep refers to the Pinkerton motto: We Never Sleep.

Melissa: If you’re interested in Kate Warne, and who wouldn’t be, the novel Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister also tells the fictionalized tale of Kate Warne but with a big dose of romance.

Melissa: This book is Never Sleep by Fred Van Lente, and it’s out now.


David: And now, our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

Melissa: If you’ve seen more poetry on social media lately, it’s because April is National Poetry Month. I loved poetry when I was a little kid. For a while, I was very into haiku. I wrote an accidentally racy limerick about a pink dress. A little poetry booklet I made when I was, like, 9 is still in a box in my mom’s basement.

Melissa: But as I got older, poetry seemed like it was supposed to be deep and MEANINGFUL. If felt heavy and wasn’t fun, so I got out of the habit of reading it.

Melissa: A few years ago, I got a bee in my bonnet that I wanted to read more poetry. I started following a few online resources. I picked out a journal and my favorite pens, and I started keeping a diary of poems I like. That has been a really good experience.

Melissa: So I have some tips to help you figure out what kind of poems you might like.

Melissa: Tip #1. Read a whole bunch of stuff so you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. My epiphany about poetry is that I don’t much like poems that rhyme. That helpfully eliminates a bunch of stuff right away. Also, I love the Brontë’s novels, but man! I cannot get into their poetry. Also, Edgar Allan Poe. Yes to The Raven and Annabel Lee. No to his other poems filled with impenetrable references to mythology and archaic terms. Also, I’m not a fan of traditional, flowery love poems. I like my romance to have some teeth and be grounded in reality. The only reason I know these things is because I’ve spent time reading lots of new-to-me poets and works to find what I like.

Melissa: Tip #2. Follow your interests. I’ve found many things I like by focusing on poems about travel, books, and fairytales. If you google the word poem plus a destination, it usually delivers some good stuff. Or ‘poets I need to know from’ and the destination is also helpful. You can google according to your mood: Poems when you feel sad, or excited… that kind of thing.

Melissa: Tip #3. Hit up the library or the bookstore and grab stuff off the shelf, flip the book open, and just read. Here’s where I’m going to give you a magic hall pass. Give yourself permission to like what you like and pass on what you don’t. There’s no ledger where you get a gold star for reading a particular poem. You don’t like every song. Or every novel. Or every flavor of soup. Not every poem will be for you. And that is as it should be.

Melissa: Corollary to tip #3. One of our listeners Linda W (hi, Linda!) recommends poetry anthologies over collections by one author. That way you can sample different styles and subjects. Remember the Norton anthologies from school? Those are great!

Melissa: Finally, tip #4. There are many online resources for finding poets and poems that you’ll like. There are newsletters that will send you a poem a day, and people share poems on Twitter and Instagram. There are also a few podcasts that feature a reading and then a discussion of that poem. Every week, The Guardian newspaper does that online, if you prefer to read instead. I’ll put links to all of that in show notes.

Melissa: Now, to inspire you, we will share a short poem we like. Dave, you want to go first?

David: I’m reading Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver. She was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She was born in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and died in a small town in Florida in 2019 when she was 83. She wrote a lot about the world of nature and the things she found there.

David: This is ‘Don’t Hesitate’ by Mary Oliver.

  • If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
  • don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
  • of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
  • to be. We are not wise, and not very often
  • kind. And much can never be redeemed.
  • Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
  • is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
  • something happens better than all the riches
  • or power in the world. It could be anything,
  • but very likely you notice it in the instant
  • when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
  • Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
  • of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Melissa: I’m reading a poem by Nikita Gill. I’ve talked about her on a previous episode of The Library of Lost Time. She’s an Indian-British poet who writes about body image, confidence, friendship, love, and other good stuff like that.

Melissa: This is ‘Girls of the Wild’ by Nikita Gill.

  • They won’t tell you fairytales
  • of how girls can be dangerous and still win.
  • They will only tell you stories
  • where girls are sweet and kind
  • and reject all sin.
  • I guess to them
  • it’s a terrifying thought,
  • a red riding hood
  • who knew exactly
  • what she was doing
  • when she invited the wild in.

Melissa: Visit for more about the books we discussed and lots of resources for finding poetry.

David: Thanks for joining us in the Libary of Lost Time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent book store to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious! We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of kaskip/Shutterstock.

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