I had an odd experience the other night. I walked out of the Help Desk, into an aisle of library books, and I picked one at random. Well, not entirely random. I wanted an old one, I wanted a bland looking one, and I wanted it lower than eye level. What I really wanted was one nobody but some poor initial shelver had ever touched in the book’s existence in Cleveland, TN.

And I found one. I don’t remember the name, but suffice it to say it was a collection of (very bad) poetry written sometime in the 17th century. Really just terrible stuff. Stuff you punish folks like Dr. Suess and Mother Goose by making them read it. But, it was just the kind of book I was looking for. I flipped open to a page about halfway through, and I read the first line of the first poem on that page. And that’s when the oddness struck. Somewhere, some 310 plus years ago, somebody wrote those words down. Chances are it was in Europe, and chances are they weren’t making any money from what it was they were writing. But they wrote it. And now, 310 plus years later, across the Atlantic, in a small town in Tennessee, in a basement aisle of a college library, I was reading those words. It was like I connected with the author, almost as if he were writing the words with my eyes as I read each one. It didn’t matter that I thought his stuff was awful, or that I was just flipping- these were words that, once he wrote them down, survived as he lived the rest of his life. He woke up, slept, woke up, slept, worked, loved, lived. And finally, he died. And other people lived and died. And some read what he wrote, and some read what others wrote, and both died. And now me. These words, with no real bearing, were read by me. I joined an odd tracing of people who have read that line from that book, and it gave me a funny feeling to be inducted into that kind of group. And it’s not that I believe it matters very much to the author at this point- I think his importance in the matter has declined greatly. It’s the words that connect our group now. The world is a big place, I’m beginning to realize, and the world is a lot more complex than I’ve given it credit for. But maybe 17th century poetry man is helping to change that.


October 2017
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