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February’s Stories and Poems

Written by Lily Kehoe, 6th February 2024

February’s selection of stories, extracts and poems have been chosen on the theme of ‘Making connections’. We spend so much of our time making connections with people, places and many things that can be found in the world around us; sometimes, these connections can feel obvious, and at other times, we may not always be aware that they are being made. Shared Reading groups and sessions are one such space where we can connect to other people from different walks of life, through the literature, thoughts and ideas that we share.

It is not only in the present that connections are made; each of us are connected to our individual and collective histories, and in understanding and recognising what has happened in the past we can forge new connections, enriched by deeper knowledge, into the future.

The Reader Bookshelf continues to be part of our monthly selections. This month, we feature an extract from the novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, as well as poems from the anthologies Poems to Live Your Life By, edited by Chris Riddell, and Stressed, Unstressed, edited by Jonathan Bate and Paula Byrne.

In this month’s stories and extracts, we find ‘moments of everyday, small moments of connection’, as well as connections fraught with difficulty – times when making a connection is vital but hard to navigate, and other instances whereby connections are broken apart. Sometimes we might even need to look outside of ourselves and other people to seek to make connections, when the things we hold dear risk being lost to us.

February’s stories and extracts are:

The Exercise by Bernard MacLaverty

Where would you like to meet him? (extract from A Lesson Before Dying) by Ernest J. Gaines

A General in the Library by Italo Calvino (translated by Tim Parks)

A series of disasters (extract from Go Tell It on the Mountain) by James Baldwin

The look of waiting (extract from I Could Read the Sky) by Timothy O’Grady

This month, we include poems that have been shared as part of The Reader’s heritage project at our headquarters at Calderstones in Liverpool, where volunteer researchers looked into the connections between the Walker family – the owners of the Mansion House – and the slave economy in Liverpool and beyond. Later this month, an artwork responding to the research created by Liverpool-based artist Sumuyya Khader will go on permanent display in the Mansion House.

Through this month’s poetry selections, we consider the ways in which we can remember the untold stories and names of the past and think about the importance of knowing why things are the way they are, and passing this knowledge on. There are many ways we can make connections in our lives, to each other and also to ourselves – through music, nature and also through things that remain somewhat unknown.

Moon-Whales by Ted Hughes – from Poems to Live Your Life By

Love by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Winter’s Night by Tomas Tranströmer (translated by Robin Robertson)

i am accused of tending to the past by Lucille Clifton

Seven Ancient Japanese Haiku by Basho, Arakida Moritake and Kobayashi Issa (translated by W.G. Aston) – from Stressed, Unstressed

A Postcard from the Volcano by Wallace Stevens

If you're a Reader Leader head to the Online Community Hub to download this month's selection.

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