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13 Ways to Look at a Public Library

August 14, 2011

Instead of expressing how passionately furious I am about the twin Fords’ proposal to close down Toronto libraries, (a train full of gravy is the grossest thing I’ve ever heard of) I’ve decided to celebrate how wonderful libraries are! But if you want to express anger (one of my favourite emotions!) check out the Our Public Library petition and let your (angry!) voice be heard.

And leading this army is none other than Margaret Atwood, a literary giant winning over 50 literary awards, writing more than 60 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s literature and yet our mayor doesn’t know who she is. With her hyperactive twitter account of over 200,000 followers, library lovers alike stormed through the petition site, and crashed the server. Our collective love for libraries swells!

And for fun, here’s a video from Toronto rapper and friend Munnemun who’s making waves of his own. Defender of public libraries and one of Ford’s fiercest lyrical critic, Munnemun’s playful videos use the mayor’s exact quotes in his clever songs.

I’m no rapper, but I want to add to the dialogue somehow. I give you my poem, inspired by Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.


Among the busy streets of Toronto

the only moving thing

was the eyes of a child reading


Seek refuge from the heat

or extreme cold

a library stands tall

like a sanctuary


The pages of a book whirled in the wind

It was small part of the pantomime


A man and a woman

are one.

A man and a woman and a library

are one.


I do not know which to prefer.

the beauty of poetry,

or of fiction

the free WiFi

or just after.


A scruffy man sit in the library

pauses, then fold the morning paper

he dashes to open

the door for the woman with a stroller


O people of Toronto

Why do you imagine Tim Hortons?

So you not see how the library

that meets you on your way home

loves you so much more?


I know noble accents

and lucid, inescapable rhythms;

but I know, too,

that the library is involved

in what I know.


If the library flies out of sight

it will mark a void

that can never be filled.


At the sight of books

lined up on shelves

even the reluctant readers

would cry out sharply.


She rode over Yonge and Bloor

in an old jalopy

Once, a fear pierced her

as she mistook

the shadow of the Reference Library

for a towering castle.


The river is moving.

A library must be open.


It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow some more.

A librarian smiles,

its warm enough to remove your scarf.

Love libraries? Outraged too? Write a poem, a petition or song. I won’t give up without a fight.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue Walters permalink
    August 14, 2011 9:00 pm

    Who are these horrible Fords? Who would say “nobody reads”? Are they real, or characters from Transformers IX?

    Anyway, Wallace Stevens – your homage is swellegant. Let be be finale of seem.


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