The other day, I walked to the Perry–Castañeda Library (PCL) on UT campus. Twenty minute walk from where I live. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside that building. Curiously, I’ve lived a great amount of my little life walking distance from the University of Texas, and have hardly ever gone there. I guess it’s kind of normal as I am not nor have I ever been a student at that university. And not so strangely, I’ve always assumed that UT is mostly for the students who attend classes and the professors who teach them, as well as the army of folks it takes to administer to the campus and those two groups. What I didn’t know is that the library, probably the best library in the city of Austin, is open to the public. Isn’t that cool?
So why would I take on such a journey in our balmy 95+ degree Central Texas weather? A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend of a friend of mine who works at PCL. She’s a librarian, and she is in charge of a tiny little corner of the this massive garguantan library (6 floors, each of which is hundreds of thousands of square feet, massive is an understatement). The five hundred square feet she is in charge of is called the UT Poetry Center.
It’s tucked away in a massive study room where what seems like thousands of tables are gathered as well as a couple of computer labs, each furnished with hundreds of the latest fastest best computers available. There, in a corner as if an afterthought, a lingering stale fart in a nursing home all but forgotten about, are twelve or so book shelves all crammed with books of poetry, a good portion of them local, and from all over the United States.
It’s quite amazing.
Okay, I have to admit something here. I hate public libraries. I know, I know. I’m a writer. A poet at that. What the hell is wrong with me? It’s not that I hate libraries. It’s more of a love-hate relationship. I love the concept of libraries, however they often feel like the place where books go to die. There’s always a staleness to them, a lingering and oppressive feeling of non-movement, of stagnant air. Of course, it’s amazing that we would collect millions of books and put them all in the same spot for anybody to find them, read them, discover new worlds, and open their minds. I love that! And yet, I have mostly stayed away from libraries my whole life, and I’m certainly glad that I didn’t this time.
The UT Poetry Collection is amazing. I will be spending a lot of time there, I have a feeling, and I will make myself learn to appreciate the oppressive almost cathedral-like grandeur of this particular library.
One of the books I looked at, and read much of its content, is a book by a poet I admire, Storm Toward Morning by Malachi Black (Copper Canyon Press 2014). I own a signed chapbook Echolocation by Malachi Black (Float Press 2010) that Malachi signed for me when I interviewed him for a show I used to host, Writing on the Air 91.7FM KOOP. However I hadn’t bought his full length collection, and hadn’t thought about him nor his writing for a while. I saw his book there while browsing the shelves, and read his Crown of Sonnets Quarantine, which blew me away.
His apparent ease with language spreads on the page so eloquently that you don’t even notice how masterful it is. When you read him, you don’t understand at first you’re being taken on a ride across his soul, which somehow becomes your own, and before you know it, you’re questioning your own existence and demanding answers to questions you hadn’t even known you wanted answers to. He asked them for you, and now you want the answers, and by god be damned, you’ll have to figure them out on your own. I like that, when a writer does that to me. It is rare indeed.
Peace & Love,
Come say hello to me in person! Every fourth Tuesday of the month, I host a free poetry reading from 7-8pm at MALVERN BOOKS called MALVERN MULTIVERSE. Please come early. I’m usually there by 6:30pm.
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