Poetrying Your Way Through the Public Library

Many thanks to poet and birth doula V. Wetlaufer for penning this guest post on poetry & public libraries!  V. is a Lambda Literary Fellow, the author of two chapbooks — Scent of Shatter and Bad Wife Spankings — and her poetry has appeared in Drunken Boat, Word Riot and Bloom.  She also blogs regularly at The V-Spot.


Poetry Shelf

I owe my start in poetry writing to my undergraduate college’s library. Crossett Library is small, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in the quality of their collection. I was in my regular library carrel, where I went to complete all my schoolwork senior year, writing a paper for a literature class, when I decided I needed a break. Off to the shelves I went to find a collection of poetry. I randomly selected a collection of Adrienne Rich’s poetry and opened the volume at random. So moved by her work was I that, having never written a poem before, I scribbled my very first poem inspired by a book plucked at random from the shelves.

I’m fortunate enough these days to live in a city with a fantastic public library, Salt Lake City, as well as a truly incredible university library I rely on for my PhD program. However, I am always saddened when I turn to a library to feed my poetry needs and the poetry collection is sadly lacking. I am especially sad when there is a dearth of contemporary poetry. I am a huge fan of poetry from Chaucer to Wordsworth, Whitman and Eliot and everyone in between, but I believe that the best way for the majority of people to encounter poetry for the first time is through contemporary work. Continue reading