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.

Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

If the Armistice Day commemorations and the documentaries about The Great War have given you an appetite for more, then you might be interested in this book.

It is a fictionalised autobiography of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon’s experiences in the trenches during 1916 and 1917. The main character George Sherston is Sassoon himself and the action starts at the Army School and goes on to describe the characters and actions along the way.

Sassoon became disillussioned with the war and he ended up being sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, mainly because the poet Robert Graves (David Cromlach in the book) had managed to convince the authorities that Sassoon had shell shock.

It’s a great read if you are into the First World War. However, I was always aware that if Sassoon hadn’t been born into a very wealthy family with influential connections, he would have been put up against a post and shot.

For more information go to the online Sassoon manuscripts which I reached via this Guardian article.