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Featured Poem: from The Buried Life by Matthew Arnold

December 22, 2014
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This week’s Featured Poem comes from Matthew Arnold, who was born 192 years ago this week. He is often noted as the “third great Victorian poet” alongside Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, and his work showcases a mood of reflection rather than emotion, with his philosophy in life being that happiness came from within.

The Buried Life is a wonderful example of the contrast Arnold outlined between the ‘hot race’ of the ‘crowded streets’ and a search for a deeper meaning that lies within us. It seems no more relevant than now, as the last minute whirlwind before the festive season is in full gear, to search for moments that allow us to feel a ‘lost pulse of feeling’ – and it is through this great poem where we can feel it most of all.

from The Buried Life

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us—to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves—
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress’d.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well—but ‘t is not true!
And then we will no more be rack’d
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul’s subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.

Only—but this is rare—
When a belovèd hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another’s eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen’d ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress’d—
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life’s flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose, and the sea where it goes.

Matthew Arnold

Seasons Readings!

December 19, 2014

Christmas spirit is filling the TRO offices at the moment as we get ready to wrap up for the holiday – not before the Ha’Penny and Penny Readings, of course.

This afternoon sees our staff Christmas party at Head Office in Calderstones Mansion House, but we’ve already been getting into the festive mood by celebrating with our Readers and volunteers in Liverpool, London and Wirral over the last few weeks. We can safely say that a very merry time was had by all at each of the parties, combining two quintessentially Readerly pastimes – reading and food – in copious amounts, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in arranging and who came along to our Christmas celebrations around the country.

Below are a few pictures from our Christmas party in Wirral, which took place at Birkenhead Central Library last week.

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Of course the festive season is the perfect time for catching up on reading, and our Readers may be interested to know about a special city-wide reading project that is happening over Christmas. City of Readers and BBC Radio Merseyside are reading Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, and on Friday 16th January at 1pm the book will be discussed on a live phone-in segment on BBC Radio Merseyside. If you’ve ever wanted to appear on the radio and share your views about a great piece of literature to a regional audience, now’s your chance! All you need to do is read the book over the Christmas period – copies are available in libraries across Liverpool – and tune in on 16th January to enjoy a great read together with the rest of the city.

To find out more about the City of Readers aim to get Liverpool reading for pleasure, visit their website: http://cityofreaders.org/

The Menlove Treasure: The end is in sight…

December 17, 2014

The grass turned silver, the stone doorway shone red. The long, skinny shadows of the children twitched across the shovelled earth.

“Old tradition says they are the gates to hell,” he says, “also they are haunted by Lady Menlove who forgot to come back for her treasure. Sometimes you can hear her whistling the tune.”

Rylan realised that they were now back in the twenty first century. That if Charlotte was still inside the safe, then she had been there for a hundred cold, dark years…

menlove_treasure_front2_200x279The snippets above are all thrilling excerpts from the previous chapters of The Menlove Treasure, the latest serial from award winning author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. Have you unearthed it yet?

Written exclusively by Frank for City of Readers and their Give Us 5 campaign, The Menlove Treasure is a wonderful tale for the whole family to discover and enjoy, set in the mysterious old Mansion House in the middle of a Liverpool park, and following Frank’s script for an episode of the latest series of Doctor Who, is another journey through time. Over five chapters, we’ve joined schoolboy Rylan on his journey to find the truth about the strange torn painting and match up the past with the present. What other thrills will be in store?

Chapter 6, the final chapter in the serial, will be unveiled exclusively at the Ha’Penny Readings this Sunday 21st December at Liverpool St George’s Hall via video link, read by Frank himself, and will be available on the City of Readers website soon after. If you haven’t already discovered the story, or if you want to refresh yourself, you can read all five previous chapters on both the City of Readers and The Reader Organisation websites to get right up to date.

You can still be amongst those who get to hear the final chapter of The Menlove Treasure live and exclusive – there are a few tickets left for the Ha’Penny Readings, our festive, family-friendly extravaganza. The show starts at 2.30pm, and will be full of reading, entertainment and fun – the perfect way to start off the Christmas celebrations. You can purchase your tickets online by visiting: https://pennyreadings2014.eventbrite.co.uk (maximum of 4 per order)

City of Readers and Liverpool City Council are also organising a book donation scheme so that the city of Liverpool can share the gift of reading this Christmas. Donations of either new or second hand books, especially those aimed at children and young people, can be dropped off at the special book bins, which can be found at the following locations around the city:

  • Toxteth Annexe
  • Liverpool Central Library
  • Norris Green Library
  • Childwall Library
  • Calderstones Mansion House
  • Goodison Park

You can find out more about the scheme and a special City of Readers supporter on the Liverpool Echo website: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/everton-star-samuel-etoo-launches-8260409

Featured Poem: Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson

December 15, 2014
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As the festive season approaches even closer, as well as the shortest day of the year, we’re keeping things seasonal with this week’s Featured Poem from Robert Louis Stevenson. We’ve already enjoyed tons of Christmassy fun with the Santa’s Grotto, Merry Music and Christmas Craft Fair at Calderstones Mansion House, and with the promise of lots more cheer to come with the Ha’Penny Readings and Penny Readings this weekend, this poem should work wonders to keep you in the seasonal spirit.

Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Prison book ban overturned

December 11, 2014

Wonderful news was announced at the end of last week as the ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales has been declared unlawful by the High Court.

Mr Justice Collins has removed the ban previously imposed earlier this year by the justice secretary Chris Grayling and has ordered the policy on what can be sent to prisoners to be amended, commenting that it was strange to treat books as a privilege when they may be essential to a prisoner’s self-development and rehabilitation.

The ban provoked an incredible reaction in opposition, leading to a petition and high-profile campaign garnering support from authors including Carol Ann Duffy, Salman Rushdie and Philip Pullman, who commented after the reversal of the decision that he was glad that reading has been seen as “a right and not a privilege”.

The Reader Organisation is delighted to hear the news, given our work sharing reading in prisons and criminal justice settings across the UK. For hundreds of prisoners each week, shared reading offers the chance to reflect, engaging with literature and connecting deeper to their own experiences.

“The connections and insights of a shared reading group are endless and some of those most in need of new connections and insights are prisoners. I myself have actually become more tolerant of people and value their opinions far more than I used to as I am constantly amazed by the depth of those insights which frequently resonate with me deeply.

I have benefited greatly from the emphasis upon great literature and have learnt more of what it is to be a human being, the role of emotions in myself and others, in fact the whole range of human experience in these finely crafted works than I have in half a dozen psychological ‘treatments’.” – A, a prisoner taking part in one of our regular shared reading group

Read more of A’s story in our Annual Report 2013/14

Writer and patron of The Reader Organisation Erwin James spoke on BBC Radio 4 following the overturning of the ban discussing the importance of reading in prison and in particular talking about the difference books have made to his life: you can hear the clip here. In Issue 54 of The Reader, he wrote an essay about how he became a reader whilst in prison and how one book in particular gave him hope for the future. In the light of the news, it makes for an even more powerful read.

Recently Lord Faulks QC, Minister of State for Civil Justice & Legal Policy, visited one of our shared reading groups at the Psychologically Informed Planned Environment (PIPEs) in HMP Send. Shared reading has been integrated as part of daily life in seven PIPEs around the country. After his visit, Lord Faulks lent his support to shared reading within criminal justice settings:

“The Reader Organisation performs a vital function in the delivery of the PIPE objectives by engaging prisoners with literature and poetry which is both enjoyable and beneficial for them. I was very impressed with the library facilities at HMP Send particularly with the accessibility to books in all genres.”

Great news just in time for Christmas for prisoners across the country to receive the gift of reading and we continue to look forward to delivering more shared reading sessions in criminal justice settings in 2015.

Featured Poem: O Thou Whose Face Hath Felt the Winter’s Wind by John Keats

December 8, 2014
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The last week has seen a definite chill in the air, and no doubt the temperatures will drop even further as the month goes on. As we bundle up in extra layers to ward off the bite of the winter wind, enjoy this poem – a classic from our bank of poetry by John Keats – with some reassurances not just against the arctic colds.

O Thou Whose Face Hath Felt the Winter’s Wind

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.

O thou, whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phoebus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.

O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

John Keats

Bibliotherapy: Therapy through Literature MA module in London

December 4, 2014

bookIf literature takes life as its subject-matter, what practical relation do books have to the lives of those who read them? What help does reading really offer to people?

These are the questions raised by what is now often called ‘Bibliotherapy’: the attempt to use books in the effort towards personal development and discovery. They are also the
questions to be investigated in Therapy through Literature, a stand-alone module offered by the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool in London.

Therapy through Literature takes as its subject what the psychologist William James described
as the predicament of ‘twice-born souls’ – those who have to readjust to experience,
following trauma. It looks at crucial versions of life-reappraisal within literature, including prose narratives of breakdown and second chance from Charles Dickens to Oliver Sacks, and the expressive power of poetry as a form of second life, including Elizabethan sonnet writers, Wordsworth
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is an intensive but personally moving reading course
designed to show the value of literary thinking through the close exploration of literary
language across the ages, in the search for human meaning.

The module can become part of a two-year, part-time Masters degree in Reading for Life, the first of its kind in the country. Reading for Life is concerned with the wider and deeper ways in which serious creative literature ‘finds’ people, emotionally and imaginatively, by offering living models and visions of human troubles and human possibilities. The course offers books of all kinds – novels, poetry, drama and essays in philosophy and theology – and from all periods, from Shakespeare to the present.

The Therapy through Literature MA module starts in January 2015 at the University of Liverpool in London, 33 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1AG, with enrolment taking place now.

Cost: £750 per module (+ £50 for accreditation); 30 credits for 6,000 word essay, plus informal formative writing in practice and preparation.

Please contact Professor Phil Davis, Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS), University of Liverpool: p.m.davis@liv.ac.uk

For more information, see the University of Liverpool in London website or the following leaflet: https://www.scribd.com/doc/249139728/Therapy-Through-Literature-MA-Module

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