Twice recently, I’ve walked through the darkness that descends in late afternoon and pushed open the door of my local bookshop, The Suffolk Anthology. I go there often anyway, of course; but these visits were prompted by requests, on two separate days, for a replacement copy of my poetry book Sudden Arabesque, because, mirabile dictu, two different people had bought one! This heartwarming news meant I could brighten the winter’s evening by a visit to the bookshop. *
And what a delight it is to do this! Books everywhere, displayed standing, and shelved, and spread out on the central table of new arrivals. You can pick them up and handle them and turn them over in your fingers and leaf through the pages. There are so many beautiful cards as well, with all sorts of art; not to mention coffee and cake for those who want to linger. Of course I always come away with a book, or a card, a treasure of some sort. As so many bookshops close, any bookshop represents great courage if it has opened in recent years, and endurance if it has been there a while. I want to support this—and of course, it’s easy, as I love what bookshops offer!
Those two lovely unknown people who bought a copy of my poetry book have therefore supported (and I mean this is a wider than monetary sense) the bookshop, and also the poet; as well as the artist of the book’s cover, Ruth End, whose work I first saw on the walls of this very bookshop, where you can still see it now. And when we buy books published by a small poetry publisher, we validate the labour of love that such publishing entails.
In my bookshop you can find the work of many other local writers, and local as well as nationally-known writers do readings and signings there; writing workshops happen there too. So a bookshop becomes a cultural hub as well as a place to find books.
A bookshop is a light in the dark.
*An explanatory note in the unlikely event you wonder why I take Sudden Arabesque to the shop myself: it is published by Oversteps Books (that’s a clickable link) and anyone wanting a copy can order online directly from the publisher. Bookshops can also obtain it easily too. But, for my local bookshop, it’s quicker and easier to get replacement copies from me, and of course I love an excuse to stop in.
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