I finally managed to get to the poetry bookshop in Hay over the Christmas break. I’d tried before, always arriving when it was closed — or rather — when it wasn’t meant to be open anyway. This time however, I was lucky enough to get in and work my way around the various section of the shop — in the relative silence of it.
I joked about the silence with the proprietor. It was funny, we thought, that the art of the oral tradition would inspire such tombly quiet for the average visitor.
Not that the visitors were average, they should be people interested in poetry, so should be a little bit strange. You’d expect them to kick the tyres and try reading out loud, a test drive of the verse. That doesn’t go on very much, apparently.
They’d not managed or bothered to do many reading, despite the festival — because it’s not a literature festival, it’s a book festival. And it happens in a field, miles away, so the Hay festival was in fact not really in Hay at all.
I asked if there was any Anne Carson hidden away. It seems she doesn’t hang around when they have her in. And, really, a second hand book shop — which relies on the cycle of wanting and unwanting of books — is defined as much by what it doesn’t have as what it does.
A really well trodden second hand bookshop should probably only contain the worst books — between replenishings donated through death and the shame of illiterate children.
“The people who pick up Anne Carson seem not not be letting her go.” Which is clearly the right sort of book to write, I know I won’t be giving away my copies of her work — but then, I don’t give anything away.
And, as Anne Carson has been teaching me in the The Economy Of The Unlost, giving is about putting yourself in debt, so an equal debt can be returned by the other person. Exchange for money unmoors us from the social bonds traditionally fostered through gift giving and exchange.
Hey. Remember when poets were paid as much as Doctors?
It makes sense in a world where Doctor’s aren’t going to prolong your life, making sure people remember you in verse for a little while after you’re gone may have a higher value.
Let me know if you need an ode, elegy, or just a quick couplet off the cuff. My rates are reasonable and may be covered by your health insurance.