The Colossus and Other Poems: April’s Book of the Month Giveaway!

“Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on Water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking
Little or nothing.”

– “Mushrooms,” from The Colossus and Other Poems

A poem expressing the worldly woes of our favorite fungi? Given our obsession with the spore-bearing dome clusters (have you seen our logo?), it’s no surprise that American poet Sylvia Plath‘s “Mushrooms” resonates with us. Although, that’s just one of the many reasons why we chose Plath’s classic collection of poetry for our April Book of the Month Giveaway.

If you’ve ever studied, written, or just appreciated the genre that Allen Ginsberg described as that which makes “…the private world public,” you may have been introduced to Plath’s work when exploring the mid-20th-century trend of confessional poetry. As one of the sub-genre’s most notable names, Plath produced pieces that exposed the rawness of self, allowing the debilitating manifestations of her struggle with depression to lie naked on the page – regardless of the consequences for baring such candor.

Her words illustrate earthly beauty, not by showing it through rose-colored glasses, but by revealing its bruises. These flawed perfections are delivered in the way of truly lovely language, like in her title poem, “The Colossus”:

“Counting the red stars and those of plum-
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.”

Plath’s chilling images seem to lose some of their weight the instant you need them to, allowing the reader to maintain a childlike innocence in spite of the coarse realities her work delivers. To see the world through Plath’s eyes is to see it through the splintered peephole of a barn door – you can hold your face close to it, but one inch too close, and the soft skin of your cheek may tear.

By way of playful alliteration and well-shaped form, her poems will fill you with a melancholic delight. To this day, Plath’s poems honor one of the sole responsibilities of timeless art – they possess the ability to change one’s perspective, be it for better, or for worse.

Discussion question: What was the last piece of art or literature that changed your perspective?

Tell us and fellow blog readers about it by commenting below! For participating, you’ll be in the running for a free copy of Plath’s The Colossus and Other Poems.


  • You have until April 22, 2011 to participate.
  • Though you may leave comments after the above date, any comments left after April 22 will not be counted toward the giveaway.
  • Only comments left on this blog post will be considered.
  • We will contact you via e-mail if you are a winner.
  • For more information, please see our Contest & Comments page.

Craving more perspective-altering inspiration? Check out our other Book of the Month titles in the ModCloth bookstore, and don’t forget to leave your own reviews when you’re finished reading!


About Laura

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  1. Avatar
    Leah 04/15/2011 at 10:11 am #

    “Wit” by Margaret Edson. She came to our class, too, and she’s ridiculously wonderful!

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      Lucy 04/16/2011 at 1:13 am #

      Ooh, I studied that play in my final year of high school. Just loved it. Did you see the film of it, with Emma Thompson?

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    Lauren 04/15/2011 at 10:16 am #

    Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. It showed me that love can come in many forms….

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    Rosemary garcia 04/15/2011 at 10:26 am #

    dr. suess’s art i canged my perspective of. i thought he was a childrens author and his art was appropriate, but when i went to this art gallery with some of his work, he had a lot of paintings with naughty things in them. one painting had a peeping tom, another had a womans boobs, and a cat right under a womans “private part”.

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    Lucy 04/15/2011 at 11:04 am #

    i actually read Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem, ‘Howl’, for the first time a month ago and I must admit that there are scribbles all over my copy of the poem (yes, I confess, I am one of those horrible, horrible people that writes in the margins of their books) because it resonated so much with me. It was amazing, and utterly eye-opening. Not only to recognise the madness in humanity, but to see the beauty in that insanity. It really put a different spin on how I view others– that I can now understand that everyone is suffering their own little tragedy, and, at the same time, they are their own little kind of masterpiece. And, as a fellow poet, I loved the way Ginsberg described writing poetry, “the poem butchered out of their own bodies”. Beautiful.

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      Katie 04/15/2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Love love love “Howl.” Ginsburg is definitely one of my favorites 🙂

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      Lucy 04/16/2011 at 1:11 am #

      I’m only a recent convert, but I’m the same, completely loving his work!

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    mandy gross 04/15/2011 at 11:12 am #

    I just got done writing a research paper about Dr. Seuss and three of his children’s books, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who and Yertle the Turtle. I learned a lot from those books and while researching so I’ll say Dr. Seuss in general.

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    Erica Casey 04/15/2011 at 11:16 am #

    One piece of poetry that has changed my perspective is “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by WB Yeats. I was introduced to it when Sir Ken Robinson referenced it in a TED Talk I watched in an education class. Although the poem is intended to be about love, Robinson made the point that it should be interperted by teachers as saying that we are not in the field of education to dash the dreams of our students. We should instead cultivate these dreams so as to produce a diverse and creative generation that will make a difference in this world. I found this to be very inspirational and I have carried this message with me since.

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    Linna 04/15/2011 at 11:38 am #

    The last piece of literature that changed my perspective was Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It was really the first book in the magical realism genre that I’ve read, and it’s opened my eyes up to a whole new way of telling “realistic” stories.

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    Anna 04/15/2011 at 11:44 am #

    Alan Paton’s “Cry, The Beloved Country” has definitely changed my perspective. It’s about South Africa in the 1940s, but its message of care and education for the poor is timeless.

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    Jessica 04/15/2011 at 12:11 pm #

    The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved, The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. These books let me know that im alright, everything is going to be just fine. I’m going to get pass this.

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    Leah 04/15/2011 at 12:19 pm #

    The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson. It taught me that the only way to find and hold on to peace and happiness is to let go of anger and fear.

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    katie bee 04/15/2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Most recently, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me go has caused me no end of reflection and pondering of my world, my life, and the passing of time. The ephemeral quality of every character and the fleeting time felt on every page has caused me to ponder my own life and love. I tend to feel that every novel I read influences me somehow, but this one has stayed with me for months now.

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      Christina 04/15/2011 at 1:28 pm #

      I did not read the book, but I saw the movie and it left me so breathless. I also loved Remains of the Day.

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    Lauren 04/15/2011 at 12:43 pm #

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and The Book Theif by Markus Zusak are both books I read this year, that let me know that my problems, no matter how big they seem, are really just superficial things that will pass, and the human spirit (including my own) is a lot more resilient than we give it credit for.

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    Jessica 04/15/2011 at 1:10 pm #

    The Book – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It is a book of two women growing up in 19th century China from children – through the foot binding process onto young women being married. The women are paired as life long friends and taught a secret form of writing to communicate – only known by other women. It is such an emotionally charged book – and the bond these girls have made really transcends time. This book has many lessons for the reader. I definitely reflect on the changes in today’s society and how thankful I am have grown up in an era where woman are empowered to express themselves and develop as whole individuals. But also as someone who has moved frequently it reminded me of the power of friendship and the need to ensure I stay in contact with those who have touched my life. I was recently reunited with my “Snow Flower” after we lost touch and am glad to be able to renew and cheris our relationship for years and years to come.

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    Christina 04/15/2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and books to come out of the slave narrative genre. I believe this probably does the same thing as presenting something in all of its ugliness, but in a more direct and personal account. The Bell Jar was one of my books last summer. That was also an eye opener.

  15. Avatar
    Kristina 04/15/2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Agatha Ruiz De La Prada’s garments have changed the way I think about art, fashion, and life. I am studying fashion merchandising and journalism at university and her designs always give me the inspiration I need. She has taught me to look at fashion differently. Instead of asking, “who would wear that?” I now find myself asking, “why can’t people wear clothes like this everyday?” Also Sylvia Plath is my favorite poet. She really got me interested in poetry and literature. Her writing inspired me to write.

  16. Avatar
    Christina 04/15/2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Oh shoot! I forgot to mention Unaccustomed Earth. One of my all time favorites!

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    Angela 04/15/2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Wonderful post! A little while ago, I rediscovered the Tennyson poem, “Ulysses.” I always would get a little choked up with its passion for exploration. It’s stuck with me this time. I also recently remembered my favorite poem of all time, “Sunday Morning,” by Wallace Stevens. It’s so heavy with layers of meaning, I’ll forever be trying to decipher it!

  18. Avatar
    Sandra 04/15/2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Last week I finished reading The Crow Road by Iain Banks. It was beautiful written, with an intriguing story and poetic dialogue. It changed my perspectives on family, religion, and made me think more about the motivations behind the actions of all of those around me.

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    Dawn 04/15/2011 at 3:14 pm #

    I’m currently reading The Poisonwood Bible, and I’m not sure why I’m just now reading it…but it’s such a powerful and well-written book. Each woman is so insightful in her own way.

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    Jessica Vignola 04/15/2011 at 3:17 pm #

    I studied Edgar Allan Poe in college and Annabel Lee just about broke my heart the first time I read it. EAP’s works stir up such strong emotions of love, mourning and tragedy. His work is truly dramatic. I learned to appreciate Poe so much more after studying his life and work.

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    Shilah 04/15/2011 at 3:32 pm #

    My favorite poet/writer Sherman Alexie changes and refines my perspective all the time with his writings. He grew up in the same area I did and now lives in Seattle and it’s incredible to see eye-opening tales of his youth happening seemingly right on my door step. I just bought his book Face, one I’ve never read before, from Powels in Portland and once again, I feel like a blindfold has been torn off and I’m filled with so much humor and wisdom. His work is artistically stunning without being puffed up and flashy, it reminds me that simply truth is beautiful.

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      Lauren 04/16/2011 at 12:02 am #

      Shilah; I agree. His work is so unique, yet real at the same time. I had the priviledge of seeing a talk he gave when I was a student at Spokane Falls Community College…

  22. Avatar
    Jessica 04/15/2011 at 3:38 pm #

    “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie was my introduction to colonialism and magical realism. Now I can’t even look at my childhood favorites without thinking about the colonial issues lurking under the surface!

  23. Avatar
    Katie 04/15/2011 at 3:49 pm #

    I’ve just read “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot for class and it is so confusing and muddled but discussing it and working through it is so rewarding. It reflects the mind of Eliot as he was having a breakdown.

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    Sara 04/15/2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I would have to say that reading the book Out of the SIlent Planet by C.S. Lewis really made me think. The idea of walking into a brand new world and trying to make it your own by changing everything that made the world unique and magical in it’s own way was emphasized as hurtful towards this land. Especially for the time when this book was written, being one of Lewis’ earliest books, the idea of space travel and the small details that he brings into the story never cease to amaze me and make me really think about my world and how I live my own life.

  25. Avatar
    Bailey 04/15/2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Art, actually, instead of prose. This artist Rolf Julius has a few pieces at the Mattress Factory museum in Pittsburgh, PA. He uses sound waves and ash or dirt or some other dust, and the varying sound waves move the particles in particular ways. It’s very fascinating to see & hear and experience. It totally gave me a new perspective on art.

  26. Avatar
    Sara 04/15/2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Frank Andrick is a local Sacramento poet. I’m so amazed by the art of storytelling. Even in normal conversation his words are so compelling and vivid. He can describe something that I was present for and it sounds so spectacular, I can’t help but wish that I was there. His perspective alters any experience into a magical moment.

  27. Avatar
    Ani 04/15/2011 at 4:55 pm #

    The Confession by Leo Tolstoy. It is hard to believe what one people’s work -especially literature- can do to one’s perspective on life. In The Confession, Tolstoy describes his struggle to find the meaning of life and ultimately discovers a very religious path. Though some of the aspects i do not agree with, it changed how I see myself and my purpose for being here.

  28. Avatar
    Laura 04/15/2011 at 5:32 pm #

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is written from the most unique point of view I have found in a novel yet, and the prose is haunting and beautiful. Although I’ve read many beautiful books, this is first that made me cry at the end.

  29. Avatar
    Christine 04/15/2011 at 6:51 pm #

    For me, it has to be Adrienne Rich’s collection of prose: Blood, Bread, and Poetry. Rich emphasizes the importance of expanding the female dialectic to include both lesbian and minority experiences in the overall experience of being a woman. But more important than that to me is the way she attempts to raise our awareness to a “psychic disequilibrium” in which we deny ourselves the things most integral to who we are.

  30. Avatar
    Beck 04/15/2011 at 7:28 pm #

    “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Ryhs. It’s like a prequel to “Jane Eyre” and completely changed how I viewed Bronte’s novel and madness. Really beautiful.

  31. Avatar
    Clair 04/15/2011 at 8:02 pm #

    “The Little Prince” – I read it for the first time ever (in French) and I could read it a thousand more times and I know I’d come away with something new each and every read. That book is such a work of art. I can’t believe I never read it (in English) when I was little and that no one read it to me!

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    Heather 04/15/2011 at 8:31 pm #

    I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Silence by Shusaku Endo – both made me reexamine who I was and what I believe about people… amazing works of Literature.

  33. Avatar
    Gaby 04/15/2011 at 9:43 pm #

    For me, it was the Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, that made me realize that life is about truly being present and being an active participant in one’s life rather than simply being an observer.

  34. Avatar
    Torrie 04/15/2011 at 11:06 pm #

    When I was sixteen, I performed in the play ‘A Thousand Cranes’ at my community theatre, and it changed my perspective of American influence both domestically and internationally forever. The play is about a little girl who develops lukemia from the radiation leftover from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Japanese tradition, if you fold one thousand paper cranes, you will be granted one wish, and she was trying to reach the quota to wish to be cured of cancer. I don’t want to ruin the rest for anyone who hasn’t read it, but it was a truly touching story. It made me realized just how much America glorifies itself and chastises other nations for inflicting brutal and terrible crimes upon other countries, although we have done it many times, as well. There is no glory in murdering masses of innoccent people in the name of revenge, or ‘justice’.
    I am so thankful that this play opened my eyes to the atrocities human kind will cast upon each other, instead of trying to work things out in a safe, humane, proper way. I was so inspired that I actually had a paper crane tattooed onto my inner wrist, and whenever I start to feel angry towards a person who has wronged me, I glance at it and realize that I do not need to inflict any physical harm upon someone just to get my point across. Simple words can change the world. They just need to be voiced.

  35. Avatar
    Kate 04/16/2011 at 1:19 am #

    A few days ago I revisited Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol. It was my perspective that had so changed that I got so much from it than I had as a teenager.

  36. Avatar
    Nadia 04/16/2011 at 7:12 am #

    Australian Indigenous Artist Samantha Hobson’s piece “Bust im Up Again” and her other pieces about the ruthless power of the ocean. Life is so complex to comprehend for someone who has no identity, experienced violence of the worst kind and lost two siblings to youth suicide. Hobson has gone through all of this; through her art, she still manages to show me where peace is found during times of turmoil.

  37. Avatar
    Hillary 04/16/2011 at 10:03 am #

    The book Winters Bone changed my perspective on hardship and daily struggles. I realized no matter how big my problems were someone else will always have a situation worse than mine. I’m grateful for that perspective because if they can grow and learn from what they’ve gone through I can too. I think the setting being present day adds to the impact of the story.

  38. Avatar
    Laken 04/16/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    In my art class, we went to the local Arts Center to see the new displays. Some of the new additions were mixed-media collages. While before-hand my artistic view was mainly “pretty, structured, organic, etc.”, these new abstract pieces made me realize that expressing yourself can come in different forms, too. Now we are making large self-portraits, and I’m trying my own hand at new methods.

  39. Avatar
    Monique 04/16/2011 at 12:33 pm #

    My pick would have to be Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’ve read it many years ago and ’till this day I can’t think of a more challenging & eye opening piece of literature. The book’s very brutally honest look at the psychological scars of slavery is just haunting (and troubling). I may never read it again, but I’m glad that I was able to have read it once in my lifetime.

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    Corinna 04/16/2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve just read Grapes of Wrath; I’m surprised it took me so long. It opened my eyes to the appeal of California, and the disappointment it can be as well. I love this state and it was wonderful to receive a different perspective on those who travel here with so many hopes and dreams.

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    Galen 04/16/2011 at 1:07 pm #

    “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. I happened to come across this book during a personal crisis, and Franzen’s story helped me realize that sometimes you have to do what’s right for YOU, even if it means hurting someone you love. In the end, the only person you can count on to make you happy is yourself.

  42. Avatar
    Sarah 04/16/2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I know its not very original to say but The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath brought me into the darker world of depression and forced me to understand the world through different eyes. I read it when I was still in high school and it left a deep impression with me.

  43. Avatar
    Jackie Foster 04/16/2011 at 2:53 pm #

    The last work of literature that changed my perspective was “Sonnets from the Portugeuse” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The idea of someone feeling unworthy and undeserving of love but then yielding to it anyway was beautiful to me.

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    Raven 04/16/2011 at 3:36 pm #

    So many novels and works of art have changed my perspective, from Plath to Salinger, and Palahnuick and beyond. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was completely inspiring in the lamest-most-splendid way possible. Being a wallflower myself, I didn’t really understand there were perks that came along with it, but to live on the fringes of life offers a perspective all it’s own. Chbosky’s character Charlie made me want to; experience life from the center of the dance floor, write letters about my life and experiences and send them to a random residential address, and most of all, feel infinite for a moment before I come of age.

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    Angelina 04/16/2011 at 4:52 pm #

    The Latin-American Short story “The Final Mist” by Maria Luisa Bombal is an extremely existentialist and eye-opening work about the struggle that women have to stay afloat after she finds the man she marries and lives “happily ever after.” It was one of the first books that started AFTER marriage when she just wants to keep her head above water and keep being seen even though she’s getting older and closer to death. For the nameless protagonist {who is nameless, I think, because she’s supposed to be able to represent any one of us} she actually spends most of her time envying the situations of dead, young, beautiful women because {as Toni Morrison so amazingly put it once} it’s impossible to fight the idealized love of a beautiful dead woman. It reminds all women to make themselves seen, because they can. Even when our little adventure of finding our prince is over.

  46. Avatar
    Bonnie Joy 04/16/2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Margaret Atwood’s “Surfacing.” The way she uses language in that book opened my eyes to a whole new way of creating fiction.

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    sara 04/16/2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Actually and oddly enough Sylvia Plath’s Mirror. I just wrote an essay about it. haha

  48. Avatar
    Michele Rodriguez 04/16/2011 at 6:43 pm #

    There are so very many as I’m an avid reader. In the song Civilian by Wye Oak she says, “I am nothing without pretend.” I feel that great literature and art remind us of that.

    But on to the last piece of literature that changed my perspective. I would say it would have to be Orphans of the Living by Jennifer Toth. It is about children in foster care and retells a few of their stories. It’s non-fiction but reading it was awe inspiring, life changing for me. It didn’t change my perspective so much as open me up to a perspective I never thought to have. A year or so after reading it I began my own non-profit with quite a few of the programs focused on helping children in foster care. If you haven’t read it yet, please read it. If you haven’t thought of all the children in foster care that so dearly need our support and advocacy please do that too 🙂

  49. Avatar
    Caitlin 04/16/2011 at 6:44 pm #

    The piece of art that really changed my perspective is Edgar Degas’ L’etoile. Not only has this particular piece of art been hanging in my dining room for years, but I read a book a few years back that based itself on the famous painting. It really opened my eyes to the fact that there really is more to anything than just what is seen- “more than meets the eye,” as in the case of the Transformers!

  50. Avatar
    Angelina 04/16/2011 at 6:45 pm #

    William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” changed my view of poetry. The strong, yet simple images showed me what true poetry is.

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    Alexandra 04/16/2011 at 6:45 pm #

    I’ve found “Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates” to be most compelling. Not only does it show how hard life can be, but even the dreams of the lives we have, and how fleeting they can become.

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    Jennifer Leavey 04/16/2011 at 6:46 pm #

    The Malady of Dying by Marguerite Duras made me reconsider my thoughts on literature because of Duras’ ability to convey so much with so few words. This was also a book where there was no hero and there were no “admirable” actions, and yet I could not stop reading. I had to really think about how I felt about the “death of the soul”–at my worst moments, am I like The Lover in this story?

    Plath’s “Daddy” was the first i a long line of literary works to make me consider the contents of my mind and soul beyond trite preteen thoughts. “The Malady of Death” is only one step in this journey of literary self-discovery.

  53. Avatar
    SARAH 04/16/2011 at 6:47 pm #

    The last book i read was The Birth Order Book! When i read about the youngest child and what they are normally like, it is TOTALLY me! Changed my way of thinking for sure!

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    Melanie 04/16/2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Sylvia Plath has been with me for over 20 years!! I have suffered from depression for as long as I remember and the first time Iread her, I related 100%. My high school years actually seem like The Bell Jar (literally). Even now, at almost 38 yrs old, I will go back and reread it!!

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    Cecelia 04/16/2011 at 6:50 pm #

    “The Hours” changed my life, I cried in public while reading it.

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    Vanessa F. 04/16/2011 at 6:51 pm #

    So many works have impacted my life; literature and art are fundamentals to who I am as a person. If I had to narrow it down, the last piece of art or literature that changed my perspective has to be ‘Franny and Zooey’ by J.D Salinger. The way the words flow together and the detail in the actions and connections between the two main characters is quite remarkable. The expression of their emotions to one another and the description of their home made me feel like I was there with them, witnessing the arguments between them and almost being able to feel the space in which they were in. The detail was amazing and connected me from within.

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    Taylor 04/16/2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Lee Price’s paintings of women and their secret eating habits were the most recent works of art to have a huge impact on me. They are so incredibly realistic and photo like, so I of course appreciated the technical skill it took to create them. It’s the subject matter though that really made me think. I could relate to the women’s hidden binges, and it made me think about how all women have to grapple with their relationship with food at some point in their lived.

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    Amanda 04/16/2011 at 7:02 pm #

    The last piece of art, in this case performance art, that really changed my perspective was Sleep No More, by Punchdrunk. The group took over an entire school in Boston and transformed it into a film-noir version of Macbeth, with visitors putting on masks and remaining completely silent as they wandered around different scenarios. It showed me that there is still a ton of life left in old plays, and that works of art can be interpreted in dozens of different ways, outside of what tell you in lecture halls. It also introduced me to completely interactive theater, which is something that I now definitely want to be a part of.

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    lilly 04/16/2011 at 7:18 pm #

    One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

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    Shannon 04/16/2011 at 7:28 pm #

    While studying Transcendentalism in high school we read Walden, (or Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau. I loved his thoughst and ideas on how we can live and thrive outside of society.

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    Jessica 04/16/2011 at 7:44 pm #

    Coincidently, the last book I read that really changed me was The Bell Jar. I related so much to Esther that it moved me to tears. The end of the book symbolized a beginning for both Esther and myself. For me, the first time I read the book, I felt like it was the beginning of the rest of my life, because I felt like I have gained so many life lessons and wisdom from the book.

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    Katie 04/16/2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Pablo Neruda makes love more real and feesible than I could ever make it in the real world <3

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    Alexandria 04/16/2011 at 8:37 pm #

    I’m currently reading a historical novel about the marriage of Queen Victoria and her darling Albert. Knowing how strict the times were due to following the monarchy’s example and seeing how this power couple came to be has really changed my perspective on my own marriage. Their love and influence on science and innovation has shaped the future of the Western world, something that I find fascinating.

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    Amy Lynn 04/16/2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Definately Thoreua’s Walden. Of course, when I read it last year in my English class, I was quite skeptical (not thinking that I would be able to relate to a bearded woodman from the 1800s). But there was a section of the book that really got to me, the part where Thoreau encouraged everyone to “do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” I saw these words as a solution, a way of avoiding the life of “quiet desperation” that he repeatedly alludes to throughout his book. It made me realize that I had to discover what I was passionate and completely devote myself to it.
    Walden gave me the courage to study Art History in college, and I’m forever grateful to Thoreau for teaching me that lesson!

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    Becky 04/16/2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Freedom by Jonathan Franzen left me re-thinking my choices in life.

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    Heather 04/16/2011 at 11:08 pm #

    “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath was really inspiring and beautiful to me. It held great meaning and expression. I’m doing a project on Sylvia Plath for my American Lit class. It’s been fun and eye opening to learn more about such a great writer. I’ve always loved her and her work.

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    Lindsey W 04/16/2011 at 11:09 pm #

    “Annabel Lee”, the great american author Edgar Allan Poe. I love the poem because it shows the love of two young lovers. It might sound the same old thing. But it was a love that lasted long after her death. Even the angels are jealous of their love. It’s an extrordinary poem to read, being the last poem Edgar Allan Poe wrote. It showed me that you can have something even if it was love, never hold back and take it all in. Love can be everlasting. I’ve always have loved poetry. But Edgar Allan Poe has taught me about life,love, and the reality of the world. You just have to look for it.

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    Abhilasha 04/16/2011 at 11:22 pm #

    ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer – translated into English by Alan Mandelbaum. It’s just another world altogether. So many characters beautifully blended in one single story which seems like it was written in today’s times and not so many hundreds of years back…simply marvellous!

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    Megan 04/16/2011 at 11:35 pm #

    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This book is amazing and so relatable, reading it gave me an entirely new perspective on my life.

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    Kelly 04/16/2011 at 11:48 pm #

    I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan and generally love everything he has written (and I have read most of it) I read the Sirens of Titan a few months ago and at first just thought “Interesting story. I like it.” But, lately I have realized the the themes (especially themes about religion) have really impacted my personal views. I think the idea of “The Church of God of the Utterly Indifferent” is an interesting perspective to have and a way to get people to take action in their own lives instead of leaving it all up to a higher power.

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    Sara 04/17/2011 at 12:13 am #

    I am currently reading “Jude the Obscure” for the first time. So far it made me realize there are other people that think and feel the same way as I do… I can’t wait to see what happens next. I am not too far into it yet.

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    Allison 04/17/2011 at 12:25 am #

    The poem “Richard Cory” by E.A. Robinson. I’m in an Modernist American Lit class right now and I adore all of the material. This poem especially connected with me since it was another reminder that people are not always as they appear and it’s important to try to know real individuals, not their cleverly crafted facades.

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    Cate 04/17/2011 at 1:04 am #

    Catcher in the Rye. My sister bought it for me for my birthday and it really made me think of how small the world really is and how quickly childhood passes you by. It made me really nostalgic, but in a good way because it taught me to appreciate what I have and to spend as much time with the people I love as much as I possible can. Also to enjoy the little things, because they are truly important and make life that much more amazing.

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    Lorraine 04/17/2011 at 1:37 am #

    T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. It performed what it says it does, in an equally painful and touching way: “breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire.” It made me realise that detritus, when used with emotion and intellect, can turn into something beautiful after all. Eliot was working with corny ‘modernised’ allusions to Andrew Marvell, and stuff like that (among others, the tarot, Dante, Greek legends, The Tempest, etc) — but it all worked out. And it is a thing of beauty. The drafts of the poem, edited by Pound, show that it was a struggle but he got there in the end. Of course I am ranting randomly it seems, but take all this allegorically and it seems a very hopeful thing for life itself. That whatever crap we go through can, in some way, be ‘fragments shored against our ruins’. Also, that pain can be connected to growth: April is cruel precisely because it breeds life out of the dead land, bringing hope (which is connected to memory and desire). There is no growth without *some* sort of pain, cruelty and loss…

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    Kelsey 04/17/2011 at 2:18 am #

    I recently read “How Lucky We Can Be – The story of Don Meyer” and was blown away by one man’s perseverance through hard times. He even autographed my book for me, reminding me to always be a servant leader. This book taught me that anyone can make a difference.

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    Melinda 04/17/2011 at 2:49 am #

    Definitely “The Giver”, Fahrenheit 451, Blue Girl (Charles De Lint), Book Thief, Illusions, Going Bovine… and many more… but that’s off the top of my head.

    Love paintings by Monet, Leonardo De Vinci’s pencil work… and Nobuyuki Taguchi’s photography…

    It’s funny, because I only just discovered Sylvia Plath’s work (a few months ago) through youtube, stumbling upon a recording (accompanied by pictures) of her poem Lazarus. It’s kind of sad, she sounds so strong… and yet… She ended up killing herself. I think she was a very strong person, I don’t suppose the world will ever fully understand why she did it then. She was an amazing woman, who shared her controversial opinions and was very passionate. I think she’s someone who anyone could look up to. I would love to own a book of hers. Even after her divorce, she remained positive, she enjoyed living in the same house that Yeats once lived in.

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    Anel 04/17/2011 at 7:29 am #

    “Rayuela” by Julio Cortazar is a book that can be read in two different chapter order and its amazing! its kind of a weird book because the story in not as important as the ideas that the characters express and every time you pick it up you find some things that reflect parts of your life…it has really changed my perspective!!!!

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    Sunita 04/17/2011 at 9:19 am #

    I usually read 3 (sometimes more books a month), and it’s really difficult to say one was more influential than another. However, one that really stands out is Someone Knows My Name. It is about a woman who was a slave and reflects back on her life. I think the book stands out in my mind (and i read it almost 2 years ago) is the author’s ability to really make people understand, understand the horrors of the Middle Passage and the horrors of the slave markets, among the other traumas the narrator suffers. I also think it is a very interesting study in human nature in a time when to participate in probably one of the most disgusting industries in human history was a good business investment.

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    Jessica 04/17/2011 at 11:48 am #

    The book that’s inspired me more than any most is “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquival. It’s a historical novella from Mexico about a young woman who is trapped in a family tradition of being forced to take care of her mother for the rest of her life as the youngest daughter. There are so many reasons why I love this beautiful novel and any part of my life I pick it up it has something new to tell me. The most important though (as cheesy as it sounds) is to let love in. After some heartbreak I closed myself off for the longest time. In the story the main character, Tita, who’s true love has been married off to her older sister, feels like giving up to and letting the passion inside her burn out too, just to make the pain go away. Her break for freedom from under her tryrannical mother is the catalyst to learning that in life you have to endure and let your spirit thrive any way you can even under the worst circumstances, always be the bigger person (even if it means helping the person you hate the most) and that though life isn’t always fair, it’s good. Tita and her true love grow closer through the worst circumstances, and the novel’s magical realism is inspiring. It’s made me want to live my life as passionately and good as possible, and I recommend this book to anyone in need of a very great, exciting, and breathtaking story.

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    Tara 04/17/2011 at 12:39 pm #

    the PostSecret exhibit came tonmy school and it was amazing… very moving. my favorite part was when the audience was invited to share their secrets into a microphone… so honest, so spontaneous, so sad, so funny, so beautiful… I’ll never forget it.

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    Julie 04/17/2011 at 2:16 pm #

    I am truly inspired by Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. I am aspiring Architect currently pursuing my Masters in Architecture. The struggles of the young Architect in the novel remind me of why I wanted to pursue Architecture in the first place: to create livable art through individualist expression. It reminds me to fight for my individuality and to never give up, despite the fact that I am a female entering a male-dominated field.

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    Rachel 04/17/2011 at 5:43 pm #

    I just read Cortazar’s Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, about he & his wife’s adventures driving from Paris to Marseilles at the pace of two rest stops a day. It showed me that there’s no such thing as a “boring life” — there is so much to see and imagine and experience even in the most mundane locations, that an adventure is always around the corner, and that, no matter what the jaded people of the world say, everything is bursting with delight. I highly recommend this book (it was written in 1982 but just recently translated into English), while the premise might seem silly, it is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and enjoy every single day so much more than you imagined.

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    Lauren 04/17/2011 at 6:15 pm #

    The last novel I read was “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. We were analyzing it for my class and despite having to do mountains of work with it every night, it resonated with me more than any book has. Talking about two generations of families in Salinas, California, it sends the message that no matter who your parents are and no matter how you may be judged, you are given the *choice* to be who you want to be, not what society and the family tree dictates. It expanded on the Hebrew phrase “timshel” because in the bible it’s referring to what how god made us and how we ought to be. But instead of saying “thou shalt” or other forms of order, Steinbeck’s character learns Hebrew just translate that one phrase: “timshel” or “thou mayest”.

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    Nina 04/17/2011 at 8:34 pm #

    e.e. Cummings’ “The Great Advantage Being Alive”: Not only does Cummings challenge everything I know about punctuation and syntax, but this poem in particular was the first thing I ever read that described my understanding of love. I often wake up with this poem in my head.

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    Julia 04/17/2011 at 9:23 pm #

    “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I couldn’t believe how much on the human experience he packed into that book- so good!

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    Shu 04/18/2011 at 7:54 am #

    I recently finished ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen. I think it taught me a lot of things about the American family, maybe even the American Dream. It was a very refreshing read and managed to summarize the whole society and its flaws without once letting me loose hope in its good aspects.

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    Rachel 04/18/2011 at 9:06 am #

    Truthfully, I can’t remember the last piece of art or literature that changed my perspective. Being an art major I encounter new works of art almost every week, I’ve never focused on one piece in particular but I think of them as a whole. However, for several years I’ve fallen in love with the work of ee cummings. He takes all of the rules of writing and throws them out of the window, he was eclectic and individual, and I try to apply that to my own artwork.

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    leslie 04/18/2011 at 9:38 am #

    The empowering anthology Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes continues to change my life the further I get into it.

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    Mallory 04/18/2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I think the latest piece of literature to change my perspective has to be Hamlet! I’m taking a focus class on it this semester, and it’s amazing what you find when you look in depth. It’s very interesting.

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    Sylvia 04/18/2011 at 6:07 pm #

    “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Technically, the book is fictional, but it is based on Plath’s life. Reading about her depression, opinions, triumphs as made me understand mine.

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    India 04/18/2011 at 7:22 pm #

    I believe music is art, and through music, I find an encompassing plethora of inspiration. The last song that truly altered my perspective was “Sylvia” by The Antlers. I found out it was inspired by a musician in the band who had to care for a sick, dying, insane woman and came to love her even though she despised him. When she died, he apparently holed himself up and wallowed in depression and wrote this song. Whether this is true or not, it moved me beyond words. The magic of that kind of devotion and the unexpected severity both casts a shadow on and enlightens love. Songs like this, and there are many, lead me to believe with all my heart that music is the most affective way to be altered in means beyond words.

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    Cristina 04/18/2011 at 7:54 pm #

    I suppose this isn’t really art of literature…but I was recently watching a video by a youtuber named Luan Legacy. He is a 17 year old gay asian guy and he was talking about how you don’t need a boyfriend to be happy. Most people would just laugh at the things he’s saying (because it is very funny) but I really took it to heart. I really understood what he was saying and it has really helped me become a stronger person.

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    lydie 04/18/2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

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    rhea 04/18/2011 at 10:20 pm #

    Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser really helped me talk about personal OCD issues, not feel alone, and realize even something in a book can do wonders for calming a person down.

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    Morgan 04/19/2011 at 12:04 am #

    “The Picture of Dorian Grey” changed my perspective of youth. I read the book while researching Oscar Wilde and it was amazing to see the parallels from his life into his only novel. The idea that ‘true beauty’ and youth is internal was a theme emphasized with the plot and the endless philosophies spoken by the characters. Also, being an artist the idea that Oscar Wilde presented about an artist putting their soul and spirit into a piece of artwork therefore being incapable of having a heart any other time, was interesting and rang true on a small scale.

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    Kayla 04/19/2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Since this is poetry month, I picked up a few books on poetry. One of which was a book of works by Emily Barett Browning. I find her work to be completely inspiring! The way that she expresses her emotions and feelings though words astounds me! I love reading both her poetry and her letters!

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    Micalea 04/19/2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I recently saw Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Painting’s at the National Gallery. They were so whimsical for the late 1500’s! Who knew!?!

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    Sarah 04/19/2011 at 9:51 pm #

    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read it when I was 19, the same age as Esther Greenwood in the book and then again 2 weeks ago. I was struck by how similar Esther Greenwood and I are. The book helped me to realize that I’m not alone and that I, too, am strong. Love, love, love Sylvia Plath.

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    Jenee 04/19/2011 at 9:57 pm #

    I think it was John Keats’s” Ode to a Grecian Urn.”
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all”

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    Ti 04/20/2011 at 8:36 am #

    The last book that actually made an impact in me has to be “What I talk about when I talk about running” from Haruki Murakami. I’ve been a runner allmost all my life, and while I was reading the book I felt that the writer understood why running is important. But also how important it is to have this rutines and ideas about life that can change through time but never go away. The book helped me get an insight about what I wanted to do with my own life not only about excercise but about work, creativeness, life. One thing that stayed with me was the idea that even if you’re not a natural born runner (or writer, or artist, or anything) you can practice and work your way to be a good one. That’s something I need to have in mind and this book gave me that insight.

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    sarah 04/20/2011 at 9:30 am #

    Jude the obscure by Thomas Hardy it made me feel such a loss of hope and despair that after i could not help but be happy that i still had time to change my life. Unlike Jude who sacrificed his, only to end it sad and alone. Also to treat myself before anyone else.

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    Blythe 04/20/2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I recently read Lolita by Nabokov, and found myself questioning issues of morality. I’m not sure if any of my opinions were changed, but it is a beautiful thing when written words can persuade you to explore opinions other than your own, and do so openly.

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    Abby 04/21/2011 at 12:38 am #

    I read the poem “Hatred”, by Wislava Szymborska in my senior year of high school. It definitely made me look at the world in a new way and try harder to not be affected by it.

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      Abby 04/21/2011 at 12:40 am #

      *Wislawa, not Wislava

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    Taylor 04/21/2011 at 9:54 am #

    The Fountainhead. I have always had a sense of integrity in me, but after I read that book it put the word “integrity” in a whole new perspective for me. Months after I finished reading it I was still pondering on that word and what it really meant to me. It changed my outlook on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life. You know a piece of literature has altered your perspective when a few years later you can still say that it changed the way you think.

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    Isabelle Gavino 04/21/2011 at 10:46 pm #

    A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Knowing this book existed gave me hope when was in high school; Still does.

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    Marcie 04/22/2011 at 2:40 am #

    Siddhartha by Herman Hesse was my recent life-changer. Reading it made me want to start up journaling again, as his words were fantastically combined and infinitely descriptive. Not only that, but the plat itself about Buddhism and achieving Nirvana has opened my eyes to a new perspective on life; a life based on goodness, introspection, and wisdom, not materialism, greed, or even love.
    It’s just a super awesome book 😀

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    Tish 04/22/2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Funnily enough, mine was a work of Plath. I was 16 when I discovered The Bell Jar and fell in love with it. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for that book!

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    Mary 04/22/2011 at 3:33 pm #

    “Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne” Reading the enduring words that he wrote for her makes me believe that real love and a passion for someone can actually happen.

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