Hello, and HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!!! With my love- ever verging on compulsion- for books, it is only natural that I commemorate this glorious day! It is a universal truth that stories bring imagination, togetherness and meaning into our lives, which is why it is so heart-breaking to read about the bastard tory cuts to our country’s libraries, and what these closures mean for us all and our future.
Considering 1 in 8 disadvantaged children don’t even own one book, it is not only sad but a public disgrace that since 2010, 700 libraries have closed- there are people being deprived of an education and development of emotional depth that everyone deserves. It isn’t a mystery why books are under threat from this government of liars, bullies and thieves. Books are the ultimate power. I always remember what my mother told me as a child: your education is the most precious thing you can cultivate, because it is the one thing nobody else can take away from you. Once you have read a sentence that sticks, or a fragment of words arranged to reveal a hidden matrix of intricate feelings, that knowledge and drive for more cannot be tamed. God even made the universe with language: ‘In the beginning was the word…’ and guess what? Words belong to everyone.
Ignorance is a fertile breeding ground for confusion, which leads to anxiety, which leads to hatred; and hatred is a very easy thing to make money from. By keeping us distant from books, the powers that be are trying to stop us from accessing a great store of tools, both for society as a whole and for our own inner lives of dreaming. In a cultural and revolutionary sense, books can help us connect to one another: to exchange and merge ideas to create new movements for political change and art of beauty. Without the literatures of Sojourner Truth, W.E.B Du Bois and later of Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, how would the oppressed realities of black Americans ever have come to the public consciousness in a way that promoted empathy and freedom over fear and exploitation? Without the words of revolutionary poets writing in their jail cells, without the necessity for freedom inscribed forever in suffragette or war pacifist leaflets, how could we know what we need to do to help one another?
Without books we would all be dead.
But it’s not just language’s capacity for fostering communal spaces of shared ideas to fight injustice which ignites my soul (READING IS SEXY IF U DIDN’T KNOW) but also for what it can do just for yourself. A good book is medicine, magic and mentor all at once. A good book can come to define a period in your life, or help organize the way you perceive reality. Reading educates you in the sense of grammar and vocabulary, but also in emotional literacy. The sense that stories and their characters and messages hold a vital puzzle: the more we pick apart and analyse a story, the more we reveal about ourselves, our biases and penchants.
It is evident that reading is and always will be FUNDAMENTAL (for any Rupaul lovers out there, I hope you got that reference- if not, take yourself back to the library hoe). Which is why, simultaneously as my heart breaks over the state of our libraries, it also swells with hope: as libraries are declining, there has been an unprecedented rise in young people reading poetry.
Poetry is often considered the less reliable, messier relative of fiction. More free-wheeling in its use of language and organization of time and plot, poetry is a maverick. Created in the material world, yet not existing by the rules of that realm- poetry’s power lays in the fact that it reverberates a visceral truth which cannot be pinpointed to a spreadsheet or reported on the news. Yet the truth you feel is real alright, the shivers and goosebumps that manifest when you read lines which somehow reveal an intuition you had felt all along, but never had the foundations of language to communicate before. There is something elemental and universal in poetry’s emotional scope, which is why I think it is such a strong mode for activism in uniting people’s hearts and minds with those of strangers.
And so, we live in hope. The libraries and our access to books may be under threat from tory heartlessness (no shocker there), but the peoples’ love of poetry cannot be cut by any austerity. The more the government continues to fuck with us, the more need we will have to fight back: to uplift and learn from each other, to stop our hearts ossifying into machines of profit. If you know someone who hasn’t read for pleasure in a while, or is curious of learning but afraid of looking like a nerd- encourage them! Share books with your friends! Volunteer at your local library or donate to causes who are fighting for the dignity and importance of the arts! AND NEVER VOTE FOR THE TORYS.
I learnt today that many thousands of books are being left unopened, and many lessons aren’t being learned. And so, I leave you today with one simple message: don’t forget to read, it is more important than you think. One of my favourite authors is Virginia Woolf, and I will honour today with what she had to say about the importance of reading and learning:
“…Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind…”
The articles I refer to are:
On the rise of poetry’s popularity: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/16/rise-new-poets