Silent practice

My nephew sent me a message this morning from a library in Malaysia. It’s a hilarious description of the noise going on around him, and he sent it as material for a poem. His message reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago, after visiting the old Birmingham Library where it was quiet apart from one person, who was oblivious to the noise he was making. Here it is:

Silent practice

The electronic piper
clicks tunes in the music library,
unaware that his melodies
are rattling around
the reference section.

No-one complains
or moves away. Instead
we secretly listen in,
not letting on
that his headphones
have a serious leak.

After a while, a pause,
a holding of breath
then a single tut
as the clatter chanter begins again,
conjuring images of beetles
in kilts and cross-laced shoes.

© Heather Wastie

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Today I saw news that the demolition of the old central library in Birmingham is due to begin in January:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30408943

This coincides with the announcement of substantial cuts at the new library:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30409906

In June 2013 I wrote a poem in response to this article:

Birmingham Central Library: Saying goodbye after 40 years
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-23008062

See below for my poem. Please pause and consider the library and what it means to you.

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Farewell, you concrete blot of brutalist architecture,
eight floors of dodgy escalators, low ceilings,
threadbare carpets and little natural daylight.

As the gatekeepers, the guardians of knowledge
leave their posts for ever, the Prince of Darkness*
believing he has finally claimed his prize,
the place where books are incinerated, not kept,
has sent his death-eaters to hover and claw at the windows
when suddenly, up the Victorian spiral staircase,
circling up through the archive, up into the vortex rise,
not flames, but 40 years of human dust – up, up and away.

© Heather Wastie
June 29th 2013

*Wales