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Thursday, April 26, 2012

There Is No "A" In Trethewey, But There's A Poet Laureate

What a fine way to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month... the 46th birthday of Natasha Trethewey, Mississippi's Poet Laureate!

  • Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on April 26, 1966. Her father and step-mother are poets, too. Poor lady didn't stand a chance against the Muses of Poetry.
  • I have something in common with Ms. Trethewey... She grew up in libraries, too. She would spend her time pouring over books while her father studied in the college library. (I used to go down to the Children's Floor of our public library and ask the Youth Librarian for recommendations while my mother worked upstairs. She had really good taste!)
  • One of Trethewey's books of poetry was inspired by John Ernest Joseph Bellocq's famous (or infamous) Storyville portraits. He photographed the working girls of the red light district in New Orleans around the turn of the last century. Trethewey visualized a prostitute named Ophelia, and a book of poems was born. Amazing! (Want to learn more about Storyville? Check out the Storyville, New Orleans web page. The Mississippi Library Commission also has Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red-Light District available to check out.)
  • Natasha Trethewey is also a member of The Dark Room Collective. This group of writers, artists, and intellectuals was conceived after James Baldwin's funeral in 1987. It allowed African Americans to compose, write, create, dream, and discuss together and, at the same time, lend one another support. A Reading Series was soon added. Many young African American writers were inspired, and in turn, inspired others here.
  • Trethewey won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She also won the 2008 Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in Arts for Poetry and in January of this year began a four year tenure as Mississippi's Poet Laureate. I think she deserves some applause.
I've enjoyed reading some of her poetry because much of it speaks of Mississippi. I'll leave you with part of her poem Providence, found in her book Poetry. (You can find all of her books here at MLC!)


What's left is footage: the hours before
Camille, 1969—hurricane
parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
fronds blown back,
a woman's hair. Then after:
the vacant lots,
boats washed ashore, a swamp
where graves had been. I recall
how we huddled all night in our small house,
moving between rooms,
emptying pots filled with rain.
"Natasha Trethewey." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
Reed, Brian. "The Dark Room Collective And Post-Soul Poetics." African American Review 41.4 (2007): 727-747. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

He's Harmless!

Sometimes the oddest of stories hides in an array of daily "top" news stories.  This one was found while searching through the Jackson Daily News, July 16, 1954 on microfilm:

We never found out how it ended!  Were they able to successfully serve the warrant?  Did the dog end up attacking the Deputy Constable resulting in a biting free-for-all between animal and human?  What was the dog's name?  So many questions left unanswered!  It's amusing how they described the dog as "growling in an unfriendly manner."  Have you ever heard of a dog that growled in a friendly manner?  We'd sure like to know!

Associated Press. “This Could Have Made Big News.” Jackson Daily News [Jackson] 16 July 1954, 62nd ed.: 5. Microfilm. Jackson Daily News Jackson Mississippi July 1954.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm no freak!

Remember that post we wrote last month about Mrs. Heiss, the woman who went back to school in her 90s? Well we've found another woman who probably got a few second glances around campus! According to an article featured in the Clarion Ledger on November 2, 1973, Mrs. P.H. Pittman began attending the University of Southern Mississippi at the age of 79! Mrs. Pittman traveled around the South teaching and then served as librarian in Walthall County for 25 years before deciding to have another go at the college life. She drove from her home in Tylertown to the USM campus in Hattiesburg twice a week in order to attend her Old Testament History class.

Mrs. Pittman thought her return to academics was no big deal stating, "I'm no freak. I just want to keep learning."

I admire Mrs. Pittman's devotion to education! You're never too old to learn new things!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Man vs. Banana Peel

We often come across interesting, even amusing, pieces of information here at the Mississippi Library Commission while searching for patron requests.  One short article came from the Clarion-Ledger which focused on a poor, poor soul.  This guy had no idea what he was in for when he crossed paths with a banana peel on July 14, 1954.

There's a cartoon-like quality to this story, or any story that involves slipping on a banana peel, but this has not been the first time a human was unknowingly pitted against a discarded banana peel.  Bananas became a popular snack of choice in the Americas in the early 1900s in part due to their portability.  The leftover peels were often thrown in the gutter, or littered on the streets and sidewalks.  The peels took on a slippery effect once decomposition began, and this was how the accidents began to happen when the human foot met the peel.

“What we know as a movie gag was real enough that in 1909 the St. Louis city council passed an ordinance prohibiting persons from ‘throwing or casting’ a ‘banana rind’ on public streets or sidewalks (another regulation the official body passed that year forbid anyone from allowing a ‘bear to run at large’) (Koeppel 66).”

This awful problem became less so as the decades passed and cities adopted use of street sweepers.  But who knows?  The banana peel may strike again!

Associated Press. “Jackson Man Slips On Peel of Banana; Taken To Hospital.” Clarion-Ledger [Jackson] 14 July 1954, CXVII ed.: 8. Microfilm. Clarion-Ledger Jackson Mississippi July 1954.

Koeppel, Dan.  Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press, 2008. Print.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Wheels on the Bookmobile Go Round and Round

Happy National Bookmobile Day! Bookmobiles have been around since at least the early 1900s. (Click here for a more detailed history.) Take a gander at these Mississippi bookmobiles.

This book truck was used from 1923 - 1925 by the Carnegie Public Library in Clarksdale. The library bought it for $125. It was "the first of its kind in Mississippi and the third in the South" (p 74).

It has books and it's mobile! Back in the 1930s, patrons in Oktibbeha County got to visit with the library mule in addition to choosing which book to check out:

This snazzy book van was used by the Mississippi Library Commission back in the day:

I'm in awe of these stylish, traveling WPA library ladies. I wonder which Mississippi hamlet they're visiting in the photo:

This "modern bookmobile" was a service of the Hattiesburg Public Library in the mid-70s:

By the way, did you know that there are still operational bookmobiles in Mississippi? Both Lee-Itawamba Library System and First Regional Library have services that bring books into their communities. Now that's service!

Peebles, Margarete and J.B. Howell. A History of Mississippi Libraries. Montgomery, AL: Paragon Press, 1975.

Scanning Mississippi History.

We come across some pretty interesting things here at the Library Commission -- in fact, I think that's putting it mildly. As I was scanning something yesterday, I saw some of the more curious things saved in my scans folder, and thought you might want to enjoy them as well.

A postcard from the State Insane Hospital (as it was known then):

An ad for the Aloha Restaurant and Waikiki Lounge in Jackson:

Really hate your dinner guests? Consider these utensil pistols:

I saved the best for last. This is by far my favorite Mississippi governor's portrait: Governor Cliff Finch in a hot tub. Note the reflection in the mirror:

Looking for something weird or wacky? Let us know!
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