Library invites public to take part in Community Read

Though Alpena County Library’s Authors in the Fall program featuring United States Poet Laureate Phillip Levine is still two months away, tickets to the Oct. 19 program are currently on sale and doing well.

“We’re actually doing well considering we haven’t really pushed it, which is really good,” said Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank. “A lot of people have said they are very interested in hearing what he has to say.”

In preparation for Levine’s visit to Alpena and in keeping with the library’s mission to create a reading community, the library once again is sponsoring a Community Read. This initiative revolves around Levine’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “The Simple Truth: Poems,” which area book clubs, students and other individuals are being asked to read ahead of time and discuss.

The library also plans a number of events related to the book and Levine.

“We think it’s a very good thing for communities to have shared experiences, and when a community reads one thing together and is able to discuss those things, it creates that shared experience,” Magness-Eubank said.

Levine grew up in Detroit, the second of three sons of Jewish immigrant parents. He addresses his Jewish immigrant heritage in his poetry as well as creating portraits of the working class. His work employs themes of the social and economic realities of Detroit in the 20th century.

“I think his poetry speaks to the experiences of many people in Alpena,” Magness-Eubank said of some of the themes touched upon by Levine. Among those themes is the reality of what’s happening to the working class in America. Magness-Eubank admits that isn’t always the cheeriest of subjects, but he said Levine also finds lights of hope in the midst.

Among the other related activities are a Sept. 28 screening of “Detropia,” a PBS documentary that deals with the current realities in Detroit. There are lectures planned on American poetry, including one focusing on Levine. Also under consideration are a poetry contest in the schools and a poetry slam event.

Magness-Eubank expects Alpena Community College and the Association of Lifelong Learners to be hosting related events as well.

“We hope to do more with some of the young people in the community,” he said. “We’re looking at more cross-generational events.”

Levine is the author of 20 collections of poems. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995, and the National Book Award in 1991 for “What Work Is” and in 1980 for “Ashes: Poems New and Old.” He also received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979 for both “Ashes: Poems New and Old” and “7 Years From Somewhere.”

His presentation in Alpena will take place at 7 p.m. in the Alpena High School Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and available at the library or on the library’s website,