The lives they’ve led, these books in the second-hand stores. There was, last year, a book by a writer I know and in it the writer had handwritten a fulsome dedication to a certain other writer, full of gratitude and praise for that other writer’s help and inspiration, taking up a whole page – and the book was clearly unread and here it was, abandoned.
Also last year, in another shop, a book with a handwritten dedication to a local creative writing teacher by one of the young writers that person had taught – more generous praise, more abandonment.
(As for printed dedications, when a selected or collected poems comes out it can be interesting, in a gossipy kind of way, to compare the individual poem dedications in the original collections with those in the later book.)
Last week someone bought one of my own poetry books in a second-hand store, and he’s forwarded the letter and postcard he found inside it – written in 1996 by me to the person I was sending this and two other books to. Dear Y – I’ve no idea where you now are, I haven’t seen or heard of you for years, but next time you offload a few books, maybe check what’s inside them first. Maybe even dispose of those things in an environmentally friendly way, as these days we get told to do. It’s a small world.
Oh, I think I’ve found a new (to me) writer Who Could Be Important – one of those who seems to be interested in the same kind of material as myself but who shows that I don’t have to write in the kind of way I seem stuck with, there are other ways. This is liberating. But I’m not going to name names. It could all go wrong.