Friday, March 28, 2008

libraries and poetry

In "Personal Narrative," a sort of intro. to her volume Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007), Susan Howe writes about spending time in Yale University's Sterling Library:

In the dim light of narrowly spaced overshadowing shelves I felt the spiritual and solitary freedom of an inexorable order only chance creates. Quiet articulates poetry. These Lethean tributaries of lost sentiments and found philosophies had a life-giving effect on the process of my writing. . . . In Sterling's sleeping wilderness I felt the telepathic solicitation of innumerable phantoms. (14)

The materiality of old books and print and paper seems to be essential, as well as the serendipitous encounters that library shelves encourage. Could one use library walks as a generative device, collecting chance encounters that reveal "an inexorable order"? How do the dead pressed between the leaves of those books solicit us? How can we listen?

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