Red Letter Poem #35

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

It’s not the turkey – though symbols and traditions do foster a sense of continuity.  It’s not just the table heaped high with all manner of delicacies – though it’s rare that many are permitted (or permit themselves) an occasion of sheer abundance.  All the loved faces gathered together – of course that comes closer to the heart of the matter even if, this Thanksgiving, much of the gathering must be done via Zoom or through memory.  To my mind, the great gift of the holiday is how we’re ushered into experiencing gratitude – and that has deep transformative power.  Gratitude confirms to the body, to the expansive mind, that what is present is enough.  And even enduring the most difficult circumstances: enough.

In Polly Brown’s lovely poem, Peggy has the courage to step away from safety’s embrace and, even facing the prospect of impending loss, she claims a moment of determination, quiet joy, and gratitude.  The subject of this poem is Peggy Lawler (1929-1966) – an important figure in the modern dance movement, and a great-hearted woman whose friendship and generosity are things for which Polly is forever thankful.  And now, because of this beautiful lyric, so are we.  Peggy on the Hill is making its debut in these electronic pages but, I’m happy to say, Polly’s recent collection, Pebble Leaf Feather Knife (Cherry Grove) contains a wealth of finely-crafted, deeply-felt poems like this one.  And in keeping with the holiday, let me add that, after nine months of the Red Letter project – after having witnessed the generosity of spirit from poets and readers alike – and even as our country struggles mightily to find its way through our devastating challenges – I can say without hesitation: life is, indeed, more than enough.

Red Letter Poem #35: 

Red Letter 35

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education.  See the full archive of the project at http://artsarlington.org/red-letter-poems/.  We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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Robbins Library Seeks Community Input For Website Redesign

The Robbins Library is seeking input from community members to improve the library’s website, robbinslibrary.org. Patron experiences and feedback are central to the redesign process.  The 8-question survey takes about three minutes to complete and is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RobbinsWebsite through Dec. 31, 2020.

Andrea Nicolay, library director, says, “Our website is our third branch. It’s a gateway to information on using our physical and virtual resources. With hundreds of thousands of visits to our site annually, and especially this past year, it’s obviously a crucial tool.  We want to help users find what they need more easily, and make happy discoveries.” 

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Red Letter Poem #34

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

Let’s take a moment, shall we?  And perhaps another moment?

A deceptively simple suggestion, but not all that far from the impetus behind the Japanese haiku.  From the time of Basho onward – and fortified by the Buddhist emphasis on being present within even the simplest of experiences – the haiku became both a method of fully engaging with one’s surroundings and a way of reflecting such moments within a succinct but imaginatively-charged poem.   Rather than explaining the mind’s journey, the three-line poem arranges the sense-impressions to propel a reader along a similar path, allowing the power of implication, juxtaposition, surprise to strike the deepest possible chord.  So right now: after one of the most contentious elections in American history; while the Covid pandemic rages anew and economic uncertainty makes our future feel more than a little tenuous; and even our prospects for a safe Thanksgiving dinner are fraught with genuine concern – Brad Bennett’s fine poems offer the reminder of what is actually ours: this moment.  And then, if we’re fortunate, the one after that.  Not too small a reason for gratitude.

Beside the fact that Brad has made haiku writing a central feature in his life, it pleases me tremendously to know that he’s taught the practice as a regular feature in his third-grade classrooms. I can only imagine the balm it provides to a young mind – not to mention the ability it develops to better participate in one’s own unfolding life. Brad’s poems have appeared in dozens of the important haiku publications including Chrysanthemum, New England Letters, and Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19: The Haiku Hecameron (edited by Scott Mason) where some of these poems first appeared. His two collections are: a drop of pond (which won a 2016 Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from The Haiku Foundation); and a turn in the river – both published by Red Moon Press.

Red Letter Poem #34: 

Red Letter #34

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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Red Letter Poem #33

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

It’s an elemental gesture, the cairn – placing a stone atop a stone.  In a Jewish cemetery, stones balanced upon grave markers signify a mourner’s visit, remembrance.  On a mountain climb, rocky piles mark paths, offer direction for travelers.  I often see little precarious towers of beach stones along the shore, and watch other passersby taking pleasure in bolstering them: I too was here.   But in introducing his poem “A Cairn by the Cabin” for an upcoming RED LETTER LIVE video-reading, Fred Marchant focused on the massive cairn being perpetually erected beside the site where Henry David Thoreau’s cabin once stood at Walden – and he takes it as both a sign of gratitude and a commitment toward maintaining the psychic edifice that is our grand democratic experiment – something Thoreau spent so much of his energy fortifying.

The late Congressman John Lewis wrote, in what would become his final message to America: “Democracy is not a state.  It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”  Are we capable now of acting in just such a manner – choosing our words, our gestures carefully as if laying a stone upon the existing stones – to establish a marker, to stand before the doorway of Thoreau’s invisible home, believing we can find shelter there, and offer shelter to others?  In light of our contentious election, the Black Lives Matter movement, the rampant fear fanned by the pandemic and economic uncertainty – is such a presumption still viable?  I have no doubt most of the poets who have been featured in these virtual Red Letter pages would answer: yes.  And you reading these words: yes.  Acting for the sake of our children and grandchildren; and our neighbors’ children and grandchildren: indeed yes.  And again tomorrow morning, responding to that face staring back at us from the mirror: we build yes upon yes upon yes.  By this cairn we’ll know we were here, mark our path forward, and offer guidance to those travelers who follow after us.

I’m delighted to feature Fred Marchant’s poetry once again.  Author of five collections including the recent Said Not Said, he is the Emeritus Professor of English at Suffolk University where he founded their Poetry Center.  Fred continues to work tirelessly to develop younger talents and to keep the rootstock of American poetry refreshed.

Red Letter Poem #33:

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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Thankful

This month we asked our librarians what books & other media they are thankful for. Check out their responses here:


The Office, US version
Doctor Who
Star Trek (any and all, especially Discovery!)
The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show (not the latest season!!!)
Nadiya’s Kitchen
The Repair Shop


Movies: Embrace of the Serpent

Books: Hotel World by Ali Smith


During the past several months, I have been grateful for the sheer variety of books I can get from the library, both physically and via Libby, which has ensured that no matter what kind of mood I’m in I have just the right thing to read.

More specifically, there are two TV shows I am particularly grateful for recently:

Schitt’s Creek – not only is it hilarious, but it contains a whole cast of people who were very flawed, and yet still managed to be decent humans.

The Great British Baking Show – the only reality or competition show I will watch because despite the fact that the contestants are competing, they are always so kind and supportive of one another. Plus, I love baked goods.

Both of these shows really highlight the best in people and serve as a reminder that humans are basically decent.


I am thankful for graphic non fiction, which helps me learn about issues and people in a way that I find very appealing and engaging. Here are a few I have read recently:

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. About life in a Kenyan refugee camp for a Somalian orphan and his brother.

Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder. Understanding grief from a teen’s point of view, and finding ways to laugh about it.

I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi by Gina Siciliano. Learning about what it was like as a woman Renaissance artist.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott, art by Harmony Becker. Takei’s memoir as a Japanese American prisoner of internment camps. 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. A memoir of displacement and immigration by a Vietnamese woman after the Vietnam War.

Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge. A spirited biography of the African American author.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. A moving memoir of being raised by grandparents, while his mother is in and out of rehab, by a beloved children’s graphic novel author.


White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Final Fantasy X & X-2


What media are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments!

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Red Letter Poem #32

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

O say can you see…? – and, to my mind, our country’s present situation bears some painful resemblance to what was experienced by this lawyer/poet in 1814.  Francis Scott Key, under guard by the British in Chesapeake Bay, watched the assault on Fort McHenry.  He spent the long night wondering whether, come morning, our flag would signal that our fragile Republic had survived.  And as I write this, the votes for our 2020 election have been cast, the counting underway – all beneath a metaphorical bombardment of epic proportions.  Many have called this the most consequential election of our lifetimes – perhaps the most dire since the start of the Civil War – and the fate of our still-fragile democracy may hang in the balance.  But the most striking difference between Key’s poem and that of today’s Red Letter from Susan Donnelly, one of Arlington’s finest poets: this time, the threatening adversary is none other than ourselves – or, more specifically, our intransigence, our rampant fears and tribal prejudices, undermining the very principles by which this country was founded.  To be able to ask honest questions – of ourselves, of our countrymen – would seem to be the very lifeblood of a democracy.  Instead, we’ve replaced that with a cannonade of sound bites and vitriol.  As Susan writes, “it’s nearly all questions”, this anthem of ours.  In waiting for answers in the hours (days? months?) to come, I’ll return to Susan’s potent little lyric to strengthen my resolve. What will our new American reality be like?  Whose voices will be included in that narrative?

Susan Donnelly made an appearance early on in the Red Letters.  Her first book, Eve Names the Animals was awarded the Morse Poetry Prize.  A prolific and masterful poet, two other full-length collections followed as well as six chapbooks, the most recent being The Finding Day from Every Other Thursday Press.  

Red Letter Poem #32:

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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How to Legally (Re)Use Pictures Found Online

There are a few different elements to this topic including copyright terminology and where to find eligible pictures. Just because you found something online, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can use it for free.

Copyright.gov More Information On Fair Use
This U.S. Federal Government site is comprehensive and has some great information describing the Fair Use of Copyright Materials.

Find images you can use & share” From Google Help Center
Google Image search is a great way to find pictures online. Check out this page for more information about how to find copyright information for pictures in this resource.

24+ Sites to Find Free Images You Would Actually Use for Your Marketing
This article from Buffer covers all of the basics of copyright in a very understandable way. They also list some great resources of usable pictures.

Creative Commons Licenses
Discover more about using pictures with Creative Commons Licenses and the differences among them.

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November Happenings for Kids and Families!

Happy November!  The staff of the Robbins and Fox Library Children’s staff miss our patrons so much!  We’ve been working on lots of ways to safely share library materials with you and be together virtually.  Here are some new options starting in November: 

Collections:

DIY – our beloved Discover It Yourself collection includes gadgets, games, kits and more to help kids explore the world around them.  It also includes Kindles preloaded with popular series!  Place a hold on a specific item through the catalog here and you’ll be notified when the item is ready for drop-in check out hours or as a contactless pick up.  DIY items circulate for 3 weeks and must be returned to a staff member in the lobby or curbside.

American Girl Dolls – our dolls have missed playing with Arlington kids! Starting November 1, you can place a hold on an American Girl doll here and be notified when the doll is ready for drop-in check out hours or as a contactless pick up.  Dolls circulate for 3 weeks and must be returned to a staff member in the lobby or curbside.

Programs: 

Toddler Time – Join us on Zoom for stories, songs and rhymes for toddlers ages 2-5. 

The program is free, but requires registration for each event. 

Wednesday, 11/4 10am register here

Wednesday, 11/18 10am register here (after 11/4)

Blowing Off STEAM – Join us on Facebook every Wednesday for a fun video of how to do a STEAM experiment at home. These activities will use common household items and be best for elementary school-age children.

CrafterZoom – while we can’t meet for crafts in the Library, we can do them together on Zoom!  Register here, then pick up materials from us during drop-in check out hours.  On Wednesday, 11/18 at 4pm, we’ll meet on Zoom to chat and make thank you cards together; for ages 5+.

Coming Soon!:

Family Movie Night – as the cold weather sets in, it’s a great time to cuddle up with your family and enjoy DVDs selected for you by our librarians!  As part of our Grab Bag program, you can request a Family Movie Night bag here!

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Red Letter Poem #31

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

Not the least of poetry’s strengths (and delights) is its ability to allow us access to another reality: to stand for a few moments in someone else’s shoes, viewing the day through a surprising sensibility, our thoughts informed by a radically different sense of history.  This is one of the first things that attracted me to the poetry of Adnan Onart.  I will never experience the pain inflicted on Crimean Tatars as their country suffered invasions – vivid still in the long memories of his Turkish family – though some of his poems provide me with a mouthful of that anguish.  Nor can I feel those American eyes at my back in some street or market – in this, our post-9/11 circumstance – triggered only by the accent of my voice; but Adnan’s poetry has made me imagine what that tremor must be like.  Poetry confirms what most of us have long suspected: that our lives are dramatically different from each other and, paradoxically, utterly alike.  So it is with “Morning Prayer” – a poem that somehow reminded me of voices as disparate as that of Yehuda Amichai and Wislawa Szymborska: when the young protagonist is instructed in the ways of prayer, I found something of my eight-year-old self awakened, and I remembered what I first yearned for in the world.  And when the much older speaker (an immigrant now in Boston) repeats that same gesture, I suddenly felt how sweet and unpredictable is the nature of our answered prayers.

Adnan lives in Boston, MA. and his work has appeared in a number of journals including Prairie SchoonerColere Magazine, Red Wheel Barrow, and The Massachusetts Review. ”Morning Prayer” was published in his first poetry collection, The Passport You Asked For (The Aeolos Press), coupled with Kenneth Rosen’s Cyprus’ Bad Period He earned an honorable mention in the New England Poetry Club’s Erika Mumford Award, and was one of the winners of the 2011 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition.  Discouraged from poetry as a young man in Turkey, he has now begun to find an appreciative audience in his adoptive land.  Talk about paradoxes.

Red Letter Poem #31:

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: steven.arlingtonlaureate@gmail.com with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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Don’t Forget to VOTE!


Returning Your Ballot:
You can mail your ballot to the Clerk’s Office (postage is paid) or use one of the three secure ballot return boxes. Before you put a ballot in a box, please be sure it is clearly marked for ballots.

– East Arlington – Outside the Fox Branch Library (175 Massachusetts Ave)

– Arlington Center – In front of Town Hall (on the lower plaza, pictured below)

– Arlington Heights – Outside ACMI Studios (85 Park Avenue)

If voters want to bring their completed vote by mail ballot to Town Hall during Early Voting Hours, the election staff will accept it. This is essentially the same as if the voter puts the completed ballot in a drop box. If you have not applied for a ballot for November 3rd, you can complete the application form and submit it by 5 pm on October 28th (TODAY!)

Early voting:
Early voting in Town Hall for all precincts runs from Oct. 17 to Oct 30. You can check the daily schedule for the times each day. Enter through the parking lot door on Academy Street. There is limited parking in the lot, so we ask those who can to park and walk from nearby. Any voter who asks for an accommodation will be able to leave the building the same way they came in (Academy Street). Poll workers have been briefed on this issue, and are happy to help. Face coverings are strongly encouraged and masks will be provided. Please follow instructional signs and maintain safe spacing. During Early Voting Hours you may return a completed ballot that was mailed you.

For more info on voting in Arlington, visit: https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/elections-voting

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