Poems

Aldgate East

“”I emerged out of childhood with nowhere to hide
when a door called my name and pulled me inside.

And being so hungry I fell on the feast.
Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.

And my brain explodes when I suddenly find
an orchard within for the heart and the mind.
The past was a mirage I’d left far behind

And I am a locust and I’m at a feast.
Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.”

Bernard Kops

This is the abbreviated version quoted by Julia Donaldson

The full version can be found here.

 

 

Julia Donaldson, Waterstones Children’s Laureate, wrote a dedicated poem to celebrate National Libraries Day 2012.

Everyone is welcome to walk through the door.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.
There are books in boxes and books on shelves.
They’re free for  you  to borrow, so help yourselves.

Come and meet your heroes, old and new,
From William the Conqueror to Winnie the Pooh.
You can look into the Mirror or read The Times,
Or bring along a toddler to chant some rhymes.

The librarian’s a friend who loves to lend,
So see if there’s a book that she can recommend.
Read that book, and if you’re bitten
You can borrow all the other ones the author’s written.

Are you into battles or biography?
Are you keen on gerbils or geography?
Gardening or ghosts? Sharks or science fiction?
There’s something here for everyone, whatever your addiction.

There are students revising, deep in concentration,
And school kids doing projects, finding inspiration.
Over in the corner there’s a table with seating,
So come along and join in the Book Club meeting.

Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow,
And help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow.

Julia Donaldson is the current Waterstones Children’s Laureate, a post which is managed by the literature charity Booktrust. www.childrenslaureate.org.uk

Joe Mills has written a darker version of the poem but none the less a powerful argument for them, albeit in a somewhat more thought-provoking way:

If Librarians Were Honest
“… a book indeed sometimes debauched me from my work….”
– Benjamin Franklin
If librarians were honest,
they wouldn’t smile, or act
welcoming. They would say,
You need to be careful. Here
be monsters. They would say,
These rooms house heathens
and heretics, murderers and
maniacs, the deluded, desperate,
and dissolute. They would say,
These books contain knowledge
of death, desire, and decay,
betrayal, blood, and more blood;
each is a Pandora’s box, so why
would you want to open one.
They would post danger
signs warning that contact
might result in mood swings,
severe changes in vision,
and mind-altering effects.
If librarians were honest
they would admit the stacks
can be more seductive and
shocking than porn. After all,
once you’ve seen a few
breasts, vaginas, and penises,
more is simply more,
a comforting banality,
but the shelves of a library
contain sensational novelties,
a scandalous, permissive mingling
of Malcolm X, Marx, Melville,
Merwin, Millay, Milton, Morrison,

and anyone can check them out,
taking them home or to some corner
where they can be debauched
and impregnated with ideas.
If librarians were honest,
they would say, No one
spends time here without being
changed. Maybe you should
go home. While you still can.

See also Hear It Again by Ted Hughes which includes the lines:

“Where any nation starts awake
Books are the memory. And it’s plain
Decay of libraries is like
Alzheimer’s in the nation’s brain”

and…

“Even the most misfitting child
Who’s chanced upon the library’s worth,
Sits with the genius of the Earth
And turns the key to the whole world.”

See the whole poem here.

 

 

 

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