Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan – a poem

I’m not a huge fan of poetry but sometimes one just hits the spot as did Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan. It’s in praise of libraries.

Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan

I always loved libraries, the quiet of them,
The smell of the plastic covers and the paper
And the tables and the silence of them,
The silence of them that if you listened wasn’t silence,
It was the murmur of stories held for years on shelves
And the soft clicking of the date stamp,
The soft clickety-clicking of the date stamp.

I used to go down to our little library on a Friday night
In late summer, just as autumn was thinking about
Turning up, and the light outside would be the colour
Of an Everyman cover and the lights in the library
Would be soft as anything, and I’d sit at a table
And flick through a book and fall in love
With the turning of the leaves, the turning of the leaves.

And then at seven o’clock Mrs Dove would say
In a voice that wasn’t too loud so it wouldn’t
Disturb the books “Seven o’clock please …”
And as I was the only one in the library’s late summer rooms
I would be the only one to stand up and close my book
And put it back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss,
Back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss.

And I’d go out of the library and Mrs Dove would stand
For a moment silhouetted by the Adult Fiction,
And then she would turn the light off and lock the door
And go to her little car and drive off into the night
That was slowly turning the colour of ink and I would stand
For two minutes and then I’d walk over to the dark library
And just stand in front of the dark library.

This is the first in a new series from the Guardian. The poet Carol Ann Duffy will be choosing poems from her her own library and sharing them with Guardian readers. Poems to get us through.

I also loved my local library when I was growing up and I was lucky enough to end up working in it, thankfully that one is still open, well it is the main county library, but it makes me feel really sad when I think of how many libraries have closed over the last ten years or so, meaning that so many children in particular are not going to have that library experience. It’s such a false economy.

Ian McMillan is obviously passionate about reading and literacy, you can hear him speaking about the subject in the You Tube video below.

The Princess’ Blankets by Carol Ann Duffy

I bought this book in one of those Scottish bookshops which have appeared in some Scottish towns, you know, buy two for £5 and they are all either by Scottish authors or are about Scotland, perfect hunting ground for the Read Scotland 2014 challenge.

Carol Ann Duffy is of course the British Poet Laureate, she’s the first female to hold the post and is Scottish, you can read about her here and read some of her poems.

The Princess’ Blankets is a fairy tale which is written along very traditional lines. A young princess suffers terribly from the cold, nothing that the King and Queen – her parents – do will warm her up. When the king declares that whoever manages to solve the problem of the shivering princess will be richly rewarded, his people try everything too but nothing works. But of course, this is a fairy tale and it does have a happy ending.

You can have a look inside this book and you get an idea of some the illustrations which are by Catherine Hyde. Her work has a hint of Gustave Klimt about it. In fact I think they look better on screen, the only complaint I have is that some of them are very dark, especially as presumably this book is supposed to be aimed at small children. I absolutely get that the illustrations are meant to be going from darkness to light, but in print I found the details a bit difficult to make out, maybe it’s my eyes, or the supermurkovision which is the result of these blasted eco light bulbs which we have to use nowadays, which make my house resemble the inside of a cave at night.