Saturday, March 5, 2011

Formed around a library

(based on suggestions from @GretasTardis, @ernmalleyscat and @matchtrick)

To be sung to the tune of 'South Australia'

Round a library I took form,

Find a book, read a book,

From its pages I was torn,

Formed around a library.


All the words you’d ever need,

Find a book, read a book,

Words to fill that lyric greed,

Formed around a library.


Words for everything that moves,

Find a book, read a book,

Spider monkeys, ballet shoes,

Formed around a library.


Junior fiction was my land,

Find a book, read a book,

Secrets bound into my hand,

Formed around a library.


All the taunts around my head,

Find a book, read a book,

Disappeared with pages read,

Formed around a library.


Deaf to all reactive jeers,

Find a book, read a book,

Paper snakes don’t prompt my tears,

Formed around a library.


Curled around your rolling shelves,

Find a book, read a book,

Lines that showed us to ourselves,

Formed around a library.


Though I’m grown I keep the place,

Find a book, read a book,

Hold the words that shaped my face,

Formed around a library.

___________________________________________________________

This poem is based on suggestions from three peeps:

  • @ernmalleyscat: "Collecting thoughts for poem? How about people's varying reactions to snakes?" (this is only *sort of* in the poem, as it was almost impossible to work in. Hope you can find it.)
  • @GretasTARDIS: "spider monkeys! Weddings! Ballet shoes! Or all three!" (All three, just for you)
  • @matchtrick: "In terms of form, I should like something in the form of a sea-shanty or ye olde ballade please."

I have an unabashed love of folk songs and sea shanties. My family sing these sorts of things at every party, and all our family bands have been folk bands (that's my uncle in the hat). This poem is based on the sea shanty South Australia. But as soon as I read 'sea shanty' I especially thought of Tolly in An Enemy at Green Knowe singing a shanty (at the volume they always should be sung - LOUD) from a tree as his friend Ping sings back Chinese songs from his homeland. They are completely different boys, brought together by place and time and singing. Aren't we all? It's gorgeous passage actually, I will quote it in full:

" 'Doing the garden' meant going all round, following every path, showing each other exactly where every single thing had happened, swarming over the fallen tree that had been Hanno's bridge across the moat, climbing all the trees, looking at Green Knowe from every possible vantage point and loving it every minute. As Ping was forest-born he was able to compete on equal terms with Tolly, who knew all the trees and holds. If Tolly swung in the top fork of a giant beech tree from which he got the best view of Green Knowe as a Norman building, singing sea shanties at the top of his voice, Ping in a tall pear tree in the orchard from which he could see the circle of the moat and the course of the river, answered with strange and distant Chinese songs. In this duet all the birds joined with enthusiasm. They were at home."

Displaced children in a strange place, but through music and friendship: 'they were at home'. This is why I love these books deeply. So when 'sea shanty' was popped up first in my timeline, I was sold. It made me think immediately of Tolly and Ping (and hunt through pages to find the passage), and reminded me how I first discovered Lucy Boston's Green Knowe series in the junior fiction section of the Warrnambool library. Those books led me, 15 years later, to visit Lucy's Norman manor on my honeymoon, an afternoon I have blogged about but almost can't explain the importance of. Four hundred years ago, a baby went to sleep.

Libraries are important.

I was formed around a library, as a child, as a teenager, as a reader, as an adult, and as a librarian.

3 comments:

ern malleys cat said...

I like how the snake slides off into the next stanza to curl around the shelves.
Again, coincidentally, the thought came after showing a neighbour around an overgrown garden.

nixwilliams said...

eee! last time (or was it the time before, they were close together) we were in the uk i went to green knowe! <3

Anna said...

I've looked at your flickr photos of your visit, I think! :D