Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Books: They look good on shelves, don't they

Books are in my purse, my backpack, on the floor, in the other room (or the bathroom). Books as dusty things are on my mind or more to the case before my eyes. I am organizing.

I have a new-to-me rescue bookcase in my little apartment. I found it about two weeks ago on Fourteenth Street, near 7th Avenue. It was about 10 p.m. The black wrought iron affair had a giant blue plastic trash bag tied onto it, maybe so the trash men would see it if they did their rounds in the middle of the night. Five shelves, 18 inches wide (I guessed two feet but decided I could get off my arse and measure). I took it home on the bus.

The odd thing is that five years ago I made a decision to divest myself of as many of my books as I could bear to. A great friend who has fallen off the radar, darn it, was pushing me to declutter, the promised reward being clarity, spirituality and an opening for something new in my life.

I had much more paper back then and so worked on culling files, throwing out as many old drafts as I could (mainly, drafts of novels that haven't worked out). It was great and yes I walked lighter on the planet once there was less in my apartment.

I tackled my books, acknowledging that if I were driven to reread The Brothers Karamazov, or even learn how to spell it, I could buy a used paperback or go to the library. And it wasn't likely that I was going to reread many of the books I held on to. I wasn't likely to consult them for favorite passages. The sense of friendship they offered was no longer dependent on their presence, any more than I need to see old friends from the west coast to know we're still connected.

Given the number of times I've moved, I've never been able to amass the kind of library that brings back rushes of every phase of intellect, whim and passion. I moved almost once a year in my twenties, almost that often in my thirties--and those two decades were especially strong times of reading classics and esoterica.

I moved from one state to another and then in my forties from the west to the east. Books were sold and doled. But I still clung on until aggressively urged to let go. In spite of all that, a friend built some shelves for me a few months ago. These shelves served me organizationally. One shelf stores all the print journals in which I've been published. I stuck books I have yet to read on another.

And here, in the other room, I am tidying. I'm not throwing out books right now. (By throwing out, I mean either giving to the library "free" cart or in my building's lobby for whoever wants them). The books I most hold onto are poetry collections. They do warrant consultation. Each book has twenty or forty or sixty poems. Maybe only a few from any one book will linger, but they linger they do.

In my new bookcase are friends' books, books I feel warm towards (this bookcase is by my bed). I've owned two books forever (Arabian Nights and a Looking Glass Book of Verse) (and by forever I mean since grammar school).

I still have three stacks of books on the floor, waiting to be returned to the other extant bookcase in this room. I'm sorta glad I don't have a camera and therefore can't show you what is really happening here.

But in my mind what's happening is an early spring cleaning and further attempt to tidy my noggin, my life, my soul. So something greater can enter my life, my poetry, my greater connection with all things greater.

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