A BOX OF POETS

rev one eye

A BOX OF POETS

*

I bought a box of Poets the other day for five dollars.

*

Most of them were long dead of course,

but I thought I saw a couple that might still be breathing,

and over-all I was pleased with my purchase.

*

Still, it was a heavy load to lug home, all the way

over the bridge across the river and up Highgate Hill,

and I sweated heavily in the process. At one point I even considered off-loading a couple of the lesser poets

on a park bench half way up the hill.

Abandon them like stray kittens

to take their chances with the kindness of strangers.

But the timely appearance of my Personal Assistant

in the Parish station-wagon saved the day,

and soon I was ensconced once more in my beloved study,

happily humming to myself as I rearranged the shelves

and plugged some gaps in the ranks.

Cheaper by the LB! The Revs PA has some heavy reading ahead

Cheaper by the LB! The Revs PA has some heavy reading ahead

The occasion had been the last day of Brisbane’s biennial

“Alumni Autumn Book Fair”,

a date fixed far ahead in the diary

of every Brisbane Bibliophile and bookseller.

For this is a far higher quality gig than say,

the mere Annual Lifeline Book Fair,

traditionally held at the South Bank Convention Centre,

where, despite the odd, overpriced “acquisition” to be found,

the general tone is set by multiple copies of

high-school editions of Shakespeare

and trashy Airport Novels.

*

The Alumni Book Fair’s stock however is on a different level.

Not only do you have first bite of whatever titles the QLD University Library is purging from its shelves,

but you also get the cast-offs and donations from generations of University Alumni filling out the stock. Basically you’re getting a selection of the reading material of the local Intelligentsia for the last hundred years. Indeed, one volume of Tennyson I bought was published in 1898.

The prices were excellent also, ranging from fifty cents a paperback to three or four dollars for a decent, hardcover classic, and I had already visited previously

 over the four day event  to pick some bargains

 out of the Ancient History and Classics sections,

and other areas of interest.

Amongst other treasures, a hardcover “Persian Expedition” by Xenophon (a classic “ripping yarn”)

and a beautifully leather-bound 1939 edition of Ovid

in mint condition had both been acquired

for a couple of dollars.

But now it was the last day, the last hour in fact, and

in an effort to clear the tables, prices were dropped to $5 a box.

A Fire Sale involving books is not always wise

A Fire Sale involving books is not always wise

The announcement sent the crowd into a final feeding frenzy,

and I dived in hungrily to join them.

Not that there was much meat left on those bones!

Despite being replenished many times over

the last few days, the book-tables were now largely depleted. Only three pamphlets (which I snapped up for my Personal Assistant ) orbited in the Astronomy section. Mere dust and bones remained in the Archeology section and the Erotica area itself was bare. Even the 43 copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, which I’d counted on the Saturday, had been sold off.

Still, I picked up a two volume edition of Johnson‘s

Lives of the Poets” and was heading towards the Fiction

section to see what might be there, when I noticed the Poetry section and it’s forlorn little mound of leftovers.

Books recent 1

As mentioned, I’d picked over the Poetry pile days earlier when it was in a far healthier condition, and now, as I cast a casual eye over the remaining crew, I couldn’t see anything I didn’t already have, or wanted or needed. (I try and keep my perverse Bibliophiliac tendencies under some sort of control. Unlike at least one friend of mind who went completely mad with book lust over the four days of the Fair, until finally he lay sated, drooling & unconscious on the floor of his living room, surrounded by tottering columns of books. Actually, now I come to think of it, I have friends who behave like that at the annual Nimbin Mardi Grass Festival, for a completely different, yet strangely similar, set of reasons.)

Be that as it may, as I cast my eye over the familiar names, a strange wistfulness whispered across my soul, (“that could be YOUR slim volume of discarded verse on the table one day!”) and on a sudden whim I decided to buy myself a box of poets for five dollars. I wasn’t sure why exactly.

Perhaps it came from the same impulse that leads people to buy the last puppy in the box at the pet-shop. Nor was I sure what I would do with them. Give them away as “prizes” perhaps. No matter. I stylishly swept an armload into the box without looking and walked briskly to the exit.

On inspection, all the “usual suspects” were there in my box, Brennan, Dobson, AD Hope, Tom Shapcott, old Red Dame Mary GilmoreKeats, Coleridge, a Judith Wright anthology, a Life of Swinburne written back when you didn’t talk about “those things” openly, etc etc. There was a hefty proportion of Australian content with a fair sprinkling of the Greats to spice the mix. If my purchase had been acquired at a Delicatessen, undoubtedly it would have borne a sign

saying something like

“Poetry,

$5 a box.

Made from finest local and imported products.

May contain nuts”

But Truth-in-labeling has yet to reach Literature and the only label I saw that day said “Caveat Emptor“.

*

It seemed a sad fate for Poetry, to be sold by the box, I mused, but still it could have been worse. They could have been sold by weight, after all, like dog meat. Now that would have been degrading. “Get yer Poetry here! Five Dollars a Pound!” Of course you could still

get good quality, I reminded myself, something to sink your teeth into and Kurilpa Cup winner, Cam Logan‘s

 recent publication sprung immediately to mind!

Cams book cover

But should Poets be sold by the Imperial Pound, like Illegal Drugs, do you think, or should the book trade be all

modernised and metricised,

and deal out Literature by the Kilo?

Oh surely it’s a Brave New World we live in,

and I acquired a copy of that also, which had somehow

got mixed up with the poets and was  now

lurking sheepishly down the bottom of the box.

bookMark

Well, unlike some Bibliophiles, crooning and drooling like secret perverts over the vast contents of their hidden Pornography Vaults in underground cellars, furtively fumbling and pawing their possions but never actually having the time to read the “Precious”, I myself  read everything that sits

upon my shelves.

I make a point of it, in fact.

“Otherwise”, I pompously tell my rivals, as I suppress my seething jealousy and book-envy, “it’s mere ornament doncha know..an affectation. Like Gatsby’s Library,..old chap”.

They pretend to miss my literary referance, but I don’t care. It’s the beginning of Winter and I have a heap of newly acquired tomes stacked next to my bed waiting to be read, so I am “booked out”,

you might say, till the Spring.

*

Of course, I also have that box of mostly dead poets in the corner.

I’ll have to find homes for them eventually, but I’ll deal with that problem when the weather’s warmer. For the moment at least they have a nice, dry room in which to hibernate, and someone to dust them now and then and keep away the silverfish while they’re dreaming.

*

“Such is the fate of Poets

and their Reward,

to be remembered briefly,

and then ignored”.

*

PS; A mathematically inclined friend assures me, that at their current expotential growth rate, the number of discarded books of Australian Poetry currently accumulating is such that, soon, like Wittenoom buried beneath it’s sea of shifting asbestos “sand-dunes”, we will be literally (and literarily) engulfed by Poetry.

Perhaps, therefore, we should consider the policies taken by the cash-strapped Egyptian Treasury in the ninteeth century, when they started exporting their vast supply of “Mummies” by the ton to America, there to be burnt as train fuel. Mark Twain reputedly once heard a train driver call to his engineer,“Toss me another King! Those commoners burn too slow!”

So let’s sell Poetry to China today to feed their roaring furnaces and vast steelworks. Hell, it’s probably better than selling them coal.

Or if you’re looking for a more PC, ecologically-sound strategy, we could follow the Egyptians other big 19th Century export industry; the shipping of tens of tons of Cat Mummies. Yes whole acres of cat mummies in fact, were compressed, ground up,

 and sold as an organic fertilizer for the fields of Europe.

 Ah! How fruitful then would those fields be,

If fertilized with Poetry!

abandoned library

***

flatland pt 7 jpig

***

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet,

President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity

and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists

AND the Church of the Universe.

“All houses are built on shifting sands.”- the Rev

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on May 3, 2015.

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