Early Reader

I am the last person to launch a critical attack upon the value of reading as a cultural activity.  Reading has played a vitally important part in my life.  I was fortunate enough to acquire reading and literacy skills at an early age, and this, in itself, gave me a sense of self-confidence.  I can still remember the pride and self-importance I felt as a young child, reading aloud to the visibly impressed members of my family.  When I first started visiting the Children’s Section of the local Public Library, I could hardly contain my delight at the new worlds of wonder that were opened to me.  Ever since, reading has constantly been my main leisure activity, and, like most life-long enthusiastic readers, I could talk endlessly about the pivotal importance of “The Books in my Life”.

How, then, to explain the fact that my poem “Early Reader” seems to be a virulent attack upon reading; apparently proclaiming it to be an evil, life-negating force?  I can only defend myself by arguing that the poem is not an attack upon the activity of reading in itself; it is actually warning of the dangerous effects excessive reading can have on those of an indolent, lethargic disposition.  I must admit that there have been times when I have allowed books to so dominate my life that  – in the periods between finishing one book that has obsessed me and starting another – I have felt rudderless, adrift in a meaningless universe.  There have also been countless times when I have, lazily, opted to stay at home, curled up with “a good book”, instead of going out and engaging with the world.  I think what I am trying to say, in other words, is that reading is, essentially, a life-enhancing activity that can be life-changing – but not if one is only willing to spend the rest of one’s life in the comfort of one’s armchair!

Early Reader:

I was an early reader;
soon found my drug of choice.
From the Children’s Public Library
came a deadly, beckoning voice.
The cat detective Mr Twink,
Just William, Treasure Island.
So many more, I couldn’t think
of anything more enthralling
than just this, sitting, reading.
It seemed a lofty calling.

I was not aware of danger;
but then, how could I be?
I sat, entranced, as in a dream,
letting the stories thrill me.
In fact, I was entrapped.
I was no longer free.
My puny self was emptying,
as characters, stories filled me.

Once it was a Heaven,
now I see it is a Hell.
Sitting, reading, emptying;
the story fills my empty shell.
My inert inner self,
now constantly keening:
Come along!  Come into me!
Fill me up – with meaning!




Filed under Poetry

5 responses to “Early Reader

  1. Hi Stewart, I know what you mean, I was lucky enough to live a few minutes away from the library and was always trudging home with a pile of books. I rented my first Stephen King there, much to the librarians apprehension.

    • I always thought I would be a librarian when I grew up, & can still remember the shock I felt when my local library didn’t seem to be interested in employing me. My life’s been on a downward spiral ever since.

      • I’m a self employed driver and struggling for work at the moment. When my wife asks me what I would like to do if I had to get a job, my answer is librarian. Or work in a garden centre at a push – but that wouldn’t work well with my hay fever.

  2. I wanted to be a librarian, as well. But I fell in love with the different manifestations of words, and did not want to limit myself to books, so now I’m studying to be an English teacher.

    Ah, the dangers of excessive reading. I nearly tripped down the stairs once, because I was so engrossed in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and thought I was coordinated enough to be able read while walking.

    Great poem.

    • Thank you very much for your appreciation of the poem. I hope you enjoy teaching as much as I did – I was a teacher of English as a Foreign Language for nine years. I’ve now started looking at your poetry blog: very impressive!

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