Tuesday, 17 January 2012


There's a Middle East religion with a god that is half book, half man. He spends his time reading himself. I don't think I read that much, but libraries certainly figure in my life. Snakeskin once accepted a poem of mine called Interlibrary Love, about 2 libraries trying to chat each other up using ISBNs, and I use library imagery both in poetry and prose.

According to the OED, Chaucer's the first recorded writer to use "library" as an English word. He might have had as many as 60 texts in his own collection. The University Library, 2 miles away from here, has 8 million books or so, sorted broadly by subject, then size, then age. As long as you use the catalogue it's a mighty useful resource. My pamphlet's not in there, but it's in the British Poetry Library. If you're ever down in London, pop in. It's near Waterloo Station and is open 6 days a week (closed Mondays). You'll find books and many current magazines there. I've just discovered that it also has a folder for press cuttings about me. Ah, fame.

2 miles the other way from my house is this "library phonebox" in a nearly village - look carefully and you'll see it has shelves of books. It would be a shame if libraries disappeared. Some small ones are already disappearing near us. The University Library's collection of printed journals will surely shrink once people become used to reading them online - I can read "American Poetry Review", "Parnassus", "Poetry", "Southern Literary Journal" and 793 other literary periodicals online through the university nowadays. E-books will supplant paper versions sooner or later. But at least the University Library has a decent cafe.

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