Carnegie free libraries

Writing about the Mechanics’ Institute libraries (see below) reminded me that I’ve also come across a Carnegie Library or two.

The Carnegie Library in Port Townsend, Washington state, USA, built in about 1913. The building and its 1990 annexe were refurbished in 2014. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the richest man of his age, built his first free library in 1883 in Scotland, the land of his birth and, as his fortune multiplied, decided to share the love by donating libraries that were – unlike the Mechanics’ Institute versions – entirely free. No annual subscriptions, no borrowing fees. Under Carnegie’s terms all persons over 14 years of age residing in the borough should be able to take out one book free per week, with those paying a subscription able to borrow a further two books.

In total he and the Carnegie Corporation were responsible for 2509 libraries in the United States, Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, the Caribbean, Fiji and New Zealand (which ended up with 18 libraries to Australia’s four).

The Carnegie Library in Suva, Fiji photographed on June 6, 1950 by Whites Aviation Ltd. The library opened in 1909 and is still in use today. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library

Carnegie hadn’t become wealthy by being a fool so there were a few rules and regulations. After some shoddy construction and poor designs came to his attention, he issued standard building plans or required that all local plans and speci­fications be vetted by his staff before construction. Following completion of the building, a council was required to send him photographs showing how his money had been spent and that construction complied with what he had approved.

Still, it was a pretty big gift horse that was, naturally, looked in the mouth by a few …

At least one library in New Zealand, Hastings, was called to account after a local resident wrote to Carnegie complaining about the charges. These appear to have then been dropped, only for the council to be caught again after the library building was destroyed in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake. The council applied to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (which Carnegie had endowed in 1911) for funds to rebuild the library. The Corporation declined, noting the council had not abided by the conditions of the original grant.

The last Carnegie library in New Zealand opened in Marton in 1916 – one of only two original Carnegie libraries in this country that is still in use (the other is in Balclutha). That year Carnegie received a report concluding, after the author had visited 100 Carnegie libraries, that money would be better invested in supporting the training of library personnel, which is what happened from 1917.

Read a NZ Geographic article about Carnegie and his libraries.

Recent publications

It seems I’ve got a bit of catching up to do …

hot night –
the time it takes the rat
to stop screaming

Sandra Simpson, Fourth, NZPS International Haiku Contest 2019

Judge Greg Piko had this to say about the haiku …‘hot night’ asked: What is happening to this rat in the heat of the night? Perhaps this is a rat we wanted dead. Perhaps we feel sorrow for the rat. Either way, this is a strong haiku that highlights the impermanence of life and makes us think about how lives end. Indeed, it can make us think about how our own life might end.

Two other haiku were also selected for publication in the contest anthology, The Perfect Weight of Blankets at Night, edited by Raewyn Alexander.

Five haiku were selected for New Zealand’s haiku journal Kokako 31, which came out last September. Issue 32 has been delayed by Covid-19 restrictions.

blowing raspberries
on her tummy –
the moon’s curve

Sandra Simpson, Kokako 31

gap in the fence  
I poke my head into
a world of sheep

Sandra Simpson, NOON 16 (2020)

Two haiku were selected for March issue of The Heron’s Nest

spring winds –
the falcon’s eye
black to the core

Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 22.1

The following haiku was selected by the Golden Triangle Haiku Contest for a signboard that is being displayed in this business district of Washington DC. The theme was nature in the city.

road works –
the billow and sag
of a cobweb in the wind

Sandra Simpson

Martin Lucas Haiku Award judge Matthew Paul selected this haiku for a Highly Commended:

harvest moon –
the kitchen table laid
with pieces of gun

Sandra Simpson

The prizewinners, plus another two of my poems, will appear in Presence 66 which was posted from the UK in mid-March.

The final haiku appears in the online exhibition at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Masters of Japanese Prints: Haiku (it’s about two-thirds of the way through):

summer heat –
his shaved head glistens
in the lamplight

The UK museum put up a selection of its Japanese woodblock prints and asked for haiku written as a response to the art. This one is matched with Lantern Seller by Utagawa Kunisada I (1786-1864). Kudos to Alan Summers and Karen Hoy of Call of the Page for arranging this interesting project.

Putting together these posts, which someone has described as skiting, does let me see that I am achieving something with my chosen art form. It’s all too easy to not write, not publish and not enter contests. I’d rather keep trying even if it does seem like a bit of an effort sometimes!

And to end, a ripple from the past … an email arrived on December 12 from Richard Oswin, a teacher and composer in Christchurch. Richard was asking permission to use The Gift, one of my longer poems, from Poetry Pudding (Raupo, 2007), a collection of poems for children. I had to find my copy of the book to even recall what the poem was – it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything longer than a haiku!

Richard used the poem as lyrics for a piece of music he’d been commissioned to write as a test piece for the  Auckland leg of the national festival The Kids Sing and duly sent me an mp3 file of his composition which features two vocal parts. Although I haven’t heard voices with the music, it seems quite lovely. And the whole thing is quite extraordinary!

Haiku of solitude

I hope everyone’s keeping their 2m distance from anyone you’re not self-isolating with … See the NZ Government’s Covid-19 information here.

through binoculars
a woman looking at me
through binoculars

Mykel Board
from The Haiku Anthology (1999)

life alone
licking
the ladle

Owen Bullock
from The Heron’s Nest (2010)

a vacant playground
the drinking fountain
runs and runs

Rich Heller
from Modern Haiku (2019)

Despite all the stresses and anxieties – and for many this virus will be the worst thing that could happen, even if they don’t catch it – I hope there will be the odd moment when we all find a simple pleasure. 

a handstand
just to see if I can
honeysuckle

Susan Antolin
from The Wonder Code (2017)

sleeping late
wild lavender pressed
against the window

Ron C Moss
from Broken Starfish (2019)

For the first few days, at least, there has been quite a lot of home improvement work going on in my neighbourhood during the day.

fog-filled harbour
someone somewhere drives
a nail through it

Cyril Childs
from the taste of nashi (2008)

empty nail holes
on the wall that needs painting
autumn sunlight

Craig Kittner
from Cattails (2019)

But really it’s so quiet! If I wake in the night now I can hear nothing from the nearby normally busy-ish road. It’s like being deep in the countryside.

hushed night …
all the universe
in a frog’s croak

Kasturi Jhadav
from naad anunaad, anthology of contemporary world haiku (2016)

the sound
of a blooming rose …
I uncurl my fist

David He
from Presence 63 (2019)

Quarantine stories

Haiku poet and editor Scott Mason has been inspired by the 14th century book The Decameron, a collection of stories created during a plague outbreak in Florence, and come up with The Haiku Hecameron which will feature 100 haiku poets whose work reflects a spirit of gratitude for something that remains right (possibly even wondrous) in the world of the poet’s present-day experience.

Submitting poets must have had work appear in an edited haiku journal (print or online) in the last three years. Work must be the author’s own and not previously published (in print or online) or under consideration anywhere else.

Submit: Please send only one submission. A submission may comprise up to a total of three of the following, in any combination: Haiku; Haiku sequence (up to 100 words including title); Haibun (up to 100 words including title); Haiga (minimum resolution 300 dpi). Send submissions by email to Scott Mason with the subject line ‘Haiku Hecameron’. Haiga should be in jpg format as an attachment. All other work should be provided in the body of the email. Include your name, pen-name name (if used), and your location (town or city; state, province or region; country).
Deadline: April 17 (International Poetry Day). Acceptance notifications by May 17.

The goal is to have The Haiku Hecameron available in late July 2020, approximately 100 days after International Haiku Poetry Day.  Contributors and submitting poets will qualify for discounts.

Read about The Decameron and its author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75).

* * *

I read Quarantine by Jim Crace years ago but its echoes still hover. Essentially it’s about Jesus and the 40 days he spent alone in the desert, but there’s much more to it than that. Read a synopsis on the author’s website.

Read the author’s description of the circumstances surrounding the creation of what became an award-winning novel.

* * *

Probably painted in the workshop of Gentile Bellini (d. 1507), this canvas shows the Mamluk governor of Damascus granting an audience to a group from Venice. The painting is dated 1511. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from 14th century Venice and means ‘forty days’, the length of time ships were isolated to prevent people arriving with the bubonic plague. But the practice of isolation for medical reasons goes back much further. Read the fascinating Wikipedia entry on quarantine.

* * *

Karantina is a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and is named for the quarantine station (lazaretto) built in about 1831 (during Ottoman rule) to house and isolate travellers arriving by sea. Between 1700 and 1848, plague raged 41 times in the empire’s Levant province. The empire’s quarantine system pushed the plague back to its frontiers by the 1840s, although from 1821 outbreaks of cholera – equally devastating – began to occur.

Karantina’s more recent history is stained by tragedy. In 1976, early in the Civil War in Lebanon, it was the site of a massacre of some 1500 Palestinian residents – men, women and children – by Christian militia.

Today, the suburb is known for its lively nightclub scene and concert hall. Funny how history gets overwritten, isn’t it?

* * *

Shakespeare apparently had a productive period in quarantine, so here’s hoping we stay well and do too.