I now have an entire bookcase filled with books of poetry. Filled and overflowing. The joy of poetry reading is the eclectic spectrum of writers and styles and topics. Most of my poetry books are “modern” although there is room on the shelf for John Donne, Whitman, Dickinson, and most of the 16th century. So, yesterday in the used book store I bought five more books of poetry. Pattiann Rogers, Bill Holm, GAry Snyder, Albert Goldbarth, and Czeslaw Milosz.
I always wonder who dropped the books off, how they choose to return a book to the distribution system, why that particular book goes back. So few of my books leave my possession, which accounts for the stacked piles and filled bookshelves. A few days ago I was looking at the main bookshelf- floor to ceiling, six feet wide and stuffed past capacity- and wondered if it was time to double row the books. Can you imagine the selection process on that one- does this book deserve front row or back row status?
I’m not sure I could make those decisions.
Ah, but poetry.
My knowledge is limited, my mind puny. I tried hard, I studied, I read many books. And nothing. In my home, books spill from the shelves; they lie in piles on furniture, on the floor, barring passage from room to room. I cannot, of course, read them all, yet my wolfish eyes constantly crave new titles. In truth, my feeling of limitation is not permanent. Only from time to time an awareness flares of how narrow our imagination is, as if the bones of our skull were too thick and did not allow the mind to take hold of what should be its domain. I should know everything that’s happening at this moment, at every point on the earth. I should be able to penetrate the thoughts of my contemporaries and of people who lived a few generations ago, and two thousand and eight thousand years ago. I should. So what?