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January’s Monthly Stories and Poems

Written by Lily Kehoe, 10th January 2024

Settling into a new year can often come with lots of feelings and emotions – excitement about new opportunities, along with perhaps some trepidation about what might be ahead. January can represent change, and change can be something that is complex, neither absolutely good or absolutely bad.

This month’s selection of stories, extracts and poems have been chosen on the theme of ‘Change and changing times’, and hopefully will help us to explore our attitudes towards the very human process of change. We certainly go through many periods of change in our lives, sometimes several of these changes can come in a relatively short space of time. How do we deal with change, and indeed, do the ways that we approach changing times alter as we grow in years and maturity?

We continue to look to the Reader Bookshelf, with the theme of Weathering the Storm, for inspiration and connection. This month we feature extracts from Janet’s Repentance by George Eliot from the Adult Bookshelf and Rook, one of a four-part series of books by Anthony McGowan, all of which are included on the Children’s Bookshelf. We also include a poem taken from the collection A Year with Rilke by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. More on A Year with Rilke can be found in January’s Ways In…to the Bookshelf, where we explore how we might go about using this collection in Shared Reading groups and sessions.

In this month’s stories and extracts, the complexities of change go hand in hand with the complexities that come with being a human being, relating, or trying to relate, to other people. We move through the centuries but find that the same feelings and uncertainties resurface, bringing with them a universality. Change often means stepping out of our comfort zone and doing things we might not want to go through with, at least not straightaway. How do we dig deep and find the courage to make changes in our lives, and see them through?

January’s stories and extracts are:

We cannot judge for one another (extract from Janet’s Repentance) by George Eliot

Courage (extract from Consolations) by David Whyte

Tales from the L.A. River by Colm Tóibín

It’s up to you how you tell it (extract from Rook) by Anthony McGowan

That was Woodview (extract from Esther Waters) by George Moore

Change can be difficult, but in this month’s poems we discover that difficulty is not always necessarily a struggle – in fact, it may be seen as a challenge to be relished, or even as a ‘fascination’. We might consider the ways in which change can affect us, particular when we feel like we are missing something that has gone by, not wanting to let go, or inversely, that we may have wasted time or opportunity in circumstances where change feels out of reach.

The Fascination of What’s Difficult by W.B. Yeats

Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye

No Matter Where We Go by Henrik Nordbrandt (translated by the poet and Alexander Taylor)

The Wanderer’s Beat, from The Seafarer by Anonymous (translated by Michael Alexander)

The Interior Castle by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows) – from A Year with Rilke

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

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