By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
My friend Marcia pointed at her two shelves and said, “Take anything you want.”
Music to my ears!
If you are a regular reader of blackcoffeepoet.com you know that I love books.
But there is something I love just a bit more than books—free books!
Over the years I’ve been very privileged and lucky to have many books given to me by friends and mentors and people I meet at readings and book festivals.
I literally have books stacked on my desk, floor, a wall to wall shelf I made over my bed, and on top of four plastic bins that are full of guess what? Books!
Books are a big part of my life. They always have been. I’ve been going to the same library since I was 10 months old. That’s a long time. And every time I go downtown I hit up all the used bookstores along Bloor Street and Yonge Street.
You could say I have an addiction, a healthy addiction. And there’s no BA—Books Anonymous—around. Nor should there be.
I can’t say “No,” to free books.
“Want a book, Jorge?”, somebody, anybody, will ask.
“OK,” I’ll say.
So two weeks ago when Marcia, a retired friend who frequents the coffee shop I go to, told me she was leaving the hood and wanted to give me free books I had an orgasm like the good bibliophile that I am.
Moving can be a tricky and long process. So when Marcia was postponing my visit while she sorted out the books she wanted to keep I persisted while practicing patience.
Scheduled visit after scheduled visit was pushed off to the next day.
“It’s best that you come tomorrow,” said Marcia three days in a row.
She even told me what time to call before coming by. I’d call and be told that the next day was better, or I’d leave a message and wait by the phone for her return call.
I was on a mission. A free book mission. And I wasn’t going to abort.
Finally, the time was set was the day of. It took several phone calls but I got in there.
Books were everywhere: books in boxes, books on the floor, books on the couch, and the two huge shelves full of books that I was free to attack.
I sat in her living room surrounded by my favorite thing in the world: books. All types of books: art books, communist books, religious books, novels, poetry collections, popular non-fiction books, memoirs, biographies, anthologies, and short story collections. The only genres missing were sci-fi and fantasy and crap like The Davinci Code. Marcia has good taste.
Two hours flew by as I picked up book after book, flipped through pages, read passages, and piled books by the chair I was sitting on.
Marcia and I talked while she moved things around and I happily took book after book from her collection to add to mine.
“That’s a good one!” she would say. “Oh, you have to read…” she would follow.
I walked away with books I didn’t even want because of Marcia’s recommendation. I’d like to think it was her wanting to nurture my brain as opposed to her getting rid of books.
After two hours I walked away with 45 books, three unused sketchbooks, and a reading diary.
My backpack was full and an extra bag I brought was overflowing.
Shit was heavy!
When I got home my lower back was hurting as was my right knee. It was all worth it!
Although I had just spent two hours selecting books from Marcia’s shelves I went through them again once entering my room.
Here are some of the many titles I am excited about diving in to:
GRANTA 21: The Story Teller
Modern Poetry of the Arab World
Other Fires: Short Fiction By Latin American Women
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Poetry of Black America
The Poetry Dictionary
The Biography of Ana Akhmatova
Permanent Red: Essays in Seeing by John Berger
The KGB Bar Non-Fiction Reader
I Wanted to Write a Poem by William Carlos Williams
Seasons of Sacred Lust by Kazuko Shiraishi
Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 by Philip Larkin
The cool thing is that I wanted some of these books but had not bought them yet. Now I don’t need to.
I have no set date or order for reading the books I have. I just know that I’ll be reading them and that I have reading material for many years to come.
It thanks to people like Marcia, and there have been many, that my eyes are always on a page and my mind is constantly expanding.
“Read everything!” is what Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Bacca wrote me in an email.
“Read a lot,” is what one of my mentors, Acoma poet Simon Ortiz, said to me when I studied with him at University of Toronto.
Thanks to Marcia I’ve got 45 new books to keep following their advice.
Forty-five FREE books!
Tune into Black Coffee Poet Friday March 16, 2012 for my first VLOG–the beginning of my series: FREE BOOKS.