Today I visited a store that smelled like my favorite kind of church: a sanctuary where other people’s books wait to become my books, where I can peruse shelf after self of older books, out of print books, little known books that find their way into my appreciative hands and into my heart.
You may find this assertion unconventional, but I think an integral aspect of my growth as a poet has come from attending used book sales, scanning thrift store book shelves and reading old text books, long ago thrown away to be replaced by a newer edition.
Just last Thursday I visited my local library, not to check out a book, but to peruse the Friends of the Library shelves, the place where they sell books for a meager dime a piece.
Guess what I found?
One of the very books you read about here earlier in the week: Suzanne Vega’s collected writings in The Passionate Eye.
I also bought some other poetry collections there: Circles on the Water, by Marge Piercy and Sunday Houses, an Iowa Poetry Prize collection by Elizabeth Hughey, a poet I had never heard of before but at ten cents I figured what did I have to lose?
Today I declined to buy a collection of Elizabeth Bishop poetry for $30, but I did pick up Sandra McPherson’s Elegies for the Hot Season. The only reason I have ever heard of Sandra McPherson is because I read her poetry in anthology I bought at another used book sale several years before.
All my poetry education comes at the feet of such purchases. I buy poetry textbooks. I buy letters written by poets and memoirs written by poet’s children. I rarely buy first hand. I often find gems by chance.
You have probably guessed by now I am a big fan of reading poetry on a regular basis, both aloud and silently, poetry of all types.
You may be thinking, “My town is too small for used book sales.”
A couple questions: do you have yard sales in your town? Estate sales, thrift stores, schools? I can guarantee you will find poetry in these places. Best of all, you may even write poetry in these places or about these places.
Reading this you may think I’m not being very profound today, but I dare you to venture out into your library sales, your goodwill stores or a garage sale sometimes before October begins.
Buy a book or two. Begin reading.
Come to know which work you enjoy most and what other poets do you connect with the most.
Then repeat the cycle often.
Over time you will see I am in fact being very profound today.
Used book sales have a joy all their own, a joy I hope and pray you discover soon.
-- Julie Jordan Scott
-- Julie Jordan Scott