Halifax’s Poet Laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper, reflects on the meaning of poetry in her life, her love of libraries, and staying inspired. Read the full blog post at Halifax Public Libraries – Halifax Blogs.
What I love about libraries
Libraries gave me wings to fly.
As a young child, I would lose myself in books and be transported to other realms—magical realms of “talking trees, and fabled cities beneath mighty rivers.” Libraries fired my imagination. I simply love libraries because they contain books, and books are some of my soul’s companions.
When I was about three (not yet in school, so I know I was very young), there was not a physical library in my home community of Barracks Road, Westmoreland, Jamaica. But a book mobile would come every week. The mobile parked itself at a place called Lindo’s Hill, about a half a kilometre from our house. To get to Lindo’s Hill, the mobile had to pass our house. I would get really excited when the bus passed and my mother knew this. So, soon after the mobile passed, she would walk with me up to Lindo’s Hill. I can remember holding her hand as we walked. It felt really comforting, and I was happy. Going into this mobile library was a great treat. There were so many books! I would sit there and ‘read’ page after page of books. Then my mother would borrow the books for me, and I would go home and devour them. I could hardly wait for the week to pass when I would visit the mobile again and borrow new books.
Later, I moved to Kingston, and there was a public library close to my school. It was called the Junior Centre Library and it was connected to the Institute of Jamaica. Junior Centre was the best! There were so many books of different genres to read.
I particularly love mystery novels, biographies, and historical novels. I loved reading a British author named Victor Canning. He wrote all kinds of thrillers. I remember reading Nelly Bly’s biography, that of the Wright brothers, and Shaka Zulu. At Junior Centre, I would load up on books, take them home, and because I was an avid reader, I would read them over the course of a day or two. The librarians were always amazed at the speed at which I read the books. Sometimes, they did not believe I read them all, but I did. Junior Centre also had arts and cultural programs like pottery, violin, and dance. I took violin for a while. This library was a place that nurtured the creative growth of the child in so many ways. Junior Centre was a cornerstone of my childhood.
My high school library was also a great place. I loved to go there after school to do homework, and just read. As I became a teenager, I realized the kind of literature that spoke to me was poetry and historical novels. After a while, I lost interest in detective stories.
The Halifax Central Library on Spring Garden (I still call it the ‘new library’) is a really fantastic place. It brings art and literature to life! I suspect the kids who come to this library love it the most. It is so kid-friendly. I love to come to the library to borrow books or movies, and sometimes just to browse. I love the Black studies sections, whether these are non-fiction or fiction. Paul O’Regan Hall is a gift to the City of Halifax.
Another library I love is the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto. It is a research library and has a great primary and secondary source collection. It was my home while I wrote my dissertation. I remember it with warmth and affection. I have also done research at the Bibliotheque National in Paris, France, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. They are also wonderful places. Read more….
Halifax Public Libraries guest blog by Halifax’s Poet Laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper (April 30, 2019)