I love libraries. Unlike the online world, they don't limit your horizons to something an algorithm suggests because you've taken an interest in it before. You can be looking for books about travelling in Europe, and before you get to the shelf, you see something far more interesting that you didn't even realise you wanted. Which is what happens to me today.
I have to vacate the apartment for a couple of hours, the weather looks like rain, so I think I'll go to the library. The catalogue is online and maybe the 910 shelves will be interesting. I see there might be some books on travel. That'll do.
Before I reach the relevant shelf, I'm scanning book spines and spot a slim, white, hardback. In red lettering it says 'How to Enjoy Poetry', written by the English comedian Frank Skinner. So I take it off the shelf, settle myself in one of the library's comfy chairs, and read it cover to cover. It takes about an hour.
What a brilliant book. It's Skinner's personal interpretation of a poem called 'Pad, pad' by Stevie Smith, who I'd never heard of before today. The poem is short, just nine lines, two stanzas, and somewhat tragicomic. Just the sort of thing I like.
Skinner explains that you cannot read a poem just once and hope to understand it. You need to read again, and again, and again. Think about how the words create rhythms, what images are conjured up in your mind, and with each reading you'll discover something new in it.
To conclude, Skinner exhorts us to "Read more poetry. I honestly believe it will change your life as it continues to change mine." I'd like to add to that, visit your library more often, it may not change your life, but it'll certainly enrich it.
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