My late friend and poetry ally, Saul Bennett, was a library hound. I still remember walking back to the poetry section then in the Siberian corner of the building on a slow afternoon to find Saul already there, doing what I intended to do, stealing a few minutes of pleasure by pulling books off the shelves to sample half a dozen poems or so. The last time we met he told me a funny story. He’d fainted one day at the library, which wasn’t so funny, for he’d been rushed down to the hospital and treated to a battery of tests. But his heart checked out fine. When he later returned to the library to thank them for their kindness, what did he do but faint again, as if caught up in a Marx Brothers routine, his favorite performers. As he told me this story with relish upstairs at Joshua’s over coffee and poetry manuscripts, we shared a good laugh. That he died four days later is a shock I haven’t gotten over, not even five years later. At least his own published poetry books remain on the library shelves for posterity. And the poetry section is no longer out in in Siberia. After the library renovation it’s now front and center in the reading room, beach front property you might say.
Thanks to the good graces of Amy Raff, our library director, a little dream of mine has come true. I’ve given a gift to the library that Amy has converted into several dozen new poetry books, CDs, DVDs, and other items now being added to the collection in Saul’s memory. At the Woodstock Library Forum on Saturday, December 3rd, Amy will formally present these books to the public at the start of a 5 pm poetry reading by Djelloul Marbrook and George Drew, two more poetry allies of mine.
What would Saul have made of Amy’s picks? Several, I’m sure, he would have loved. Many he would have accepted. Some he would have loathed. Which is as it should be. What’s the point of throwing your soul in to reading poetry if you don’t react strongly? I was impressed by the selection that Amy has added in Saul’s memory. Maybe not something for everyone. But something for a lot of us. If you’re the adventurous type curious about contemporary verse, visit the library. If you feel Saul’s presence, as I sometimes do, say hello. He loves nothing better than to share the blessings of poetry.