Almost September…..but not yet. Let’s not rush it. This is still the last day of August. So often, I find myself looking forward to what is coming next, rather than dwelling in the now.
Today I went to a poetry reading at my local library. The monthly series, with a featured poet and open mic, is at lunchtime, with no charge and no need to book ahead, so people can easily drop in. As one woman said today—she’s new to Cheltenham and was there for the first time—it’s so good to have a library in town and to be able to attend events like this.
These readings are especially meaningful to me because, decades ago, when I was 14 and myself recently arrived, I discovered through this very library a club where young people could explore drama, art, and poetry. It was run by an amazing person called Elizabeth Webster under the aegis of the library, and it changed my life. And so today, before reading a poem at the open mic, I said all this—not for the first time, so please forgive me if you’ve heard it before. But emphasising the importance of the library in my life mattered more than ever today. The Cheltenham library has been short-listed for the David Vaisey Prize. This recognises a Gloucestershire public library initiative that “demonstrates the power of reading, leading to more borrowing, reading, and discussion of books.” One of the judges was there this afternoon, and I wanted her to know how much this library, and its support of writing and writers, means to me.
The poem I read today is about a bright September afternoon in North America, where I lived for many years. (There was a wonderful library in my town there too). I loved those vivid September days in Pennsylvania; yet I missed the muted hazel and umber of my rainy native landscape.
Admittedly, in choosing that September poem I was rushing ahead to tomorrow. But really poems are outside time. A poem can telescope years of growing up, can look back, or forward, and yet slow down the present moment. A poem can make us simultaneously fourteen years old and forty; can make past things fresh, as if they are happening in an eternal now.
Events like today's support local writers, and bring people together around words and books. Thank goodness for libraries, and for the power of reading.