Diagnosis: Wrong Question
I associate libraries with safety.

Discovery. Home. Knowledge. Personal growth. Joy. Hope. Imagination. Exploration. Heroes. Words. Paper. Smiling old ladies. Dragons. Magic.

Because books live in libraries.

I can’t ever remember not reading. Before I was a confident reader, I remember my mother reading ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ series to me. I would ask her to read just one more chapter until her voice was hoarse. As an adult I’ve continued to have zero ability to pace my reading, devouring novels in a night and heading to bed at 4am before going to work bleary eyed at 9am.

Books and the characters in them have deeply shaped my world views, my aspirations, my identity, my journey in the ‘real world’.

When I applied to be a poet in residence at the City Library, I’d been thinking a lot about the books that have had a particularly significant impact on me and I was curious to ask other people how books have shaped them.

Turns out that might be completely the wrong question to be asking, in this library, for this residency. Looking around the library and in conversations so far, few people come to the library to read books. People I’ve spoken to talk about coming to the library for activities the library runs – Lego Club, a talk by a vegan chef, a mental health workshop using drawing were some of the examples – and to use the library computers or library wifi. Looking around and watching people in the library, that seems to be largely true. I saw only a handful of people engaged with the shelves of books during both my visits. Yet the library was full of people.

So if I’m interested in thinking about how our views are shaped – how we ‘grow what we know’ – as a starting point for Mind the Garden, I need to go deeper into conversations. A question about what books have taught you or which books have impacted you isn’t going to tell me what I really want to know at all!

I’m going to leave my questions and prompts in Studio Two as they are, but what I’m becoming more interested in is what I can actively learn/be taught by others during my residency sessions.

During my session yesterday Thom* (who goes to Lego Club nearly every week) taught me to play ‘Squares’. And told me about the things he does in the library, the things he learns here. From workshops and youtube and conversations with other people. He did confess that one time he borrowed a gardening book to diagnose a problem he was having with a eucalyptus.

I wonder if I was approaching the residency again, if I might have been able to run ‘reverse’ workshops where individual people booked in to teach me something? Maybe that’s an idea to consider for the next stage of developing Mind the Garden.

In the meantime I’ll be in the library this Wednesday 5:30 – 6:30pm live writing replies to the letters people have left me (you can contribute your letter any day this week or during my session if you’d like a reply) and drafting some early poetry in response to my sessions so far. And continuing to wrestle with all the questions in my own head about what and why and how.

Come along and say hi.

And if you have something you can teach me, I’d love to learn it.

*Thom told me yesterday that it’s his birthday today – Monday 6th June – so if you know Thom or you are Thom, Happy Birthday!

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