library poems, etc.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
tonight I worked at one of my favorite small branches downtown, and it was S-L-O-W. I was on the desk by myself for two hours, which meant that there was plenty of time for miscellaneous library searches/ internet searches. I try to keep my internet use to book-related things, at least while I'm still fairly new to the job -- it's not like it's torture and it feels less like goofing off. Anyway, I had decided that I would check out the Poetry 180 resource to see if some of my favorites were still there and check out anything new. What I didn't realize was the branch was hosting a poetry reading tonight! I found out they do this every month or so and it's always full. I got to read poems at the desk and direct people to the meeting room so they could go hear poems in the flesh. Fun! (for real. Like I said before, I have adopted a deep and wide definition of fun -- it makes me less cross and things more interesting.) Here are a couple of poems about libraries --
This one is from Poetry 180 and is library/writer pertinent and new since I'd last looked:

“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?"
Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave

your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap

one is best, with pages the color of weak tea

and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than

three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware

any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks

across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.

And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle

where a child a year or two old is playing as his

mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.

The title, the author's name, the brooding photo

on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray

book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher

it gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower

falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody

in the world frowns and says, "Shhhh."

Then start again.

from there I clicked over to the Library Of Congress (a tremendous public resource!), and then to their Poetry section, which (hooray!) had a feature on current Poet Laureate and one of my all-time favorites, Charles Simic. I saw him read here in portland last year and it was one of the smartest things I've done -- to think I almost didn't do it! Anyway, I read several of the interviews collected on the page (I did not think I could love him more, but I do), then spotted this poem which seemed just Too Perfect considering I was reading poetry in the library. So here it is:

In the Library

for Octavio

There's a book called

"A Dictionary of Angels." 

No one has opened it in fifty years,

I know, because when I did, 

The covers creaked, the pages

Crumbled. There I discovered

The angels were once as plentiful

As species of flies. 
The sky at dusk

Used to be thick with them. 

You had to wave both arms

Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining

Through the tall windows. 

The library is a quiet place.

Angels and gods huddled

In dark unopened books.

The great secret lies

On some shelf Miss Jones

Passes every day on her rounds.

She's very tall, so she keeps

Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.

I hear nothing, but she does.

--Charles Simic
1 comment on "library poems, etc."
  1. You might just get me interested in this poetry thing you bring up every few weeks. We'll see. I tend to enjoy the Simic when I read him. And I do love the library. I tried to reserve something earlier and it turns out that I already have 15 holds. I am fairly certain that I had less than 5 holds just a couple of weeks ago. Strange.


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