Poetry Friday: Deborah Warren – Marginalia

Poetry Friday is hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader  
I went through old books in my office the other day, trying to clear away a bookshelf and make space for a table upon which to set the contents of the bags I bring home from school every night – my stacks of reading journals and writers notebooks and tests to be read through, annotated and corrected.  As someone who loves books, buys lots of them and reads lots of them, I find it really difficult to make that decision to actually part with my books – even though I will probably not ever read this or that particular book again…  The books I have the hardest time deciding what to do with are those I bought in my long ago student days – the ones filled with earnest questions and notes.  Deborah Warren’s poem is about just that….

Marginalia by Deborah Warren

Finding an old book on a basement shelf—   
gray, spine bent—and reading it again,   
I met my former, unfamiliar, self,   
some of her notes and scrawls so alien   

that, though I tried, I couldn’t get (behind   
this gloss or that) back to the time she wrote   
to guess what experiences she had in mind,   
the living context of some scribbled note;   

or see the girl beneath the purple ink   
who chose this phrase or that to underline,   
the mood, the boy, that lay behind her thinking—   
but they were thoughts I recognized as mine;   

and though there were words I couldn’t even read,   
blobs and cross-outs; and though not a jot   
remained of her old existence—I agreed   
with the young annotator’s every thought:   

A clever girl. So what would she see fit   
to comment on—and what would she have to say   
about the years that she and I have written   
since—before we put the book away?
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10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Deborah Warren – Marginalia

  1. Aww, now I'm nostalgic! 🙂 I used to keep journals as a young girl – I'm sure my ten year old girl would be horrified to read through them (hahaha) – reading through her mother's experiences at the same age. But I do agree with you, parting with books is indeed such sweet sorrow. One that I would postpone for as long as I could. Thank you for introducing us to this poet.

  2. Such a wonderful contemplative poem. I love "I met my former, unfamiliar, self," and that final verse/question. I have my college journal still and see glimpses of myself, but not many. It's sometimes like reading words of someone else. Thank you Tara.

  3. One of the things I love about books being a solid, return-to-me kid of medium is this ability to have a different experience with a book at different stages of life. I love bringing a new perspective to a book I've loved… most of the time. Sometimes that girl (who loved that book) is so lost to me I get a little sad when I can't find her again. 😦 But then, such is growth…

  4. I often come across lines I underlined many years ago in a favorite book and can't recall why I thought they were so important. So startling! And then then lines I love, how sweet to find them again and remember the first time… thanks for his poem today!

  5. Franki and I just had a conversation about re-reading Wallace Stegner's CROSSING TO SAFETY — a book we adored 15-20 years ago, but which is a whole different book in this time of our lives! It's crazy how the stuff we thought would never change…does.

  6. Reading old words is often like reading someone else's work. I guess that's why it is important sometimes to put a piece away for a bit and revisit it. It would be fascinating to be able to have our "younger selves" be able to read our future writing, like we can read our past writing. What would young me think of old me?

  7. I thought it was interesting that she agreed with her younger self's comments. I wonder if I would? I never wrote in books, so I don't know. Thanks for sharing this "time travel" poem, Tara!

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