"Vines": A Poem About Libraries by Philadelphia Poet Laureate, Yolanda Wisher

By Administrator RSS Mon, December 18, 2017

In celebration of the reopenings of our four new 21st Century Libraries, Yolanda WisherPhiladelphia’s 2016–2017 Poet Laureate—penned an original poem. She read this work in advance of the ribbon cutting at Logan Library, the first new library to reopen this season.



I grew up in libraries
sacred spaces like churches
covered in the vines of
yonder & yesteryear

I remember libraries
like warm closets
like swaying, raucous ships
like the calm palm of the backseat
on a long ride home

I remember the women
who welcomed me into libraries
who fed me with fiber & book board
who made snacks & secrets of new releases
made revolutions out of books banned & branded
with silver & gold medals

we used to look up bad words
in the big dictionaries
write love notes in the margins of classics
fold the corners but never tore a page—
my mother taught us
to never abuse a book

said it was like a stray
needed nothing more
than your attention
the water of your waking hours
to soothe the yearning you have to get your life
to heal the yearning you have to know
something else besides your own life

I remember libraries in the city
where women welcomed us in
& let us teach the children
with the words we had written ourselves

& I remember a day when a book I wrote
became part of a library
as if the library grew a new limb
& I grew a call number
a code for future readers to find me

in some places they burn libraries
as acts of war
in some places people want to burn books
to keep minds in one place & time

remember when they wanted to close
all the libraries here in philly?
remember how they failed?

in some places
we keep on building & opening libraries
building & opening libraries again & again
grandly in every neighborhood
brazenly on every block
unapologetically in every book bag
flagrantly on every free shelf at home

& may the libraries always grow between us
like vines that leave us enraptured
with the promise of each other

by Yolanda Wisher, Philadelphia Poet Laureate 2016-2017

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Bravo Yolanda, Goddess of Words!
ilenebaker - South Philadelphia
Sunday, December 24, 2017

Like Trapeta Mason, she is truly a Wordsmith; A hooker for words.
Juanda - Central
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Such a treasure to recall early memories of how large and imposed OED seemed when we were young . . . thank you for generative creativity and always for Octavia Butler, the history of banned book and precious reopening and all that can be learned from early exposure to poetics of everyday life
Pamela Williams - Main Library, Mount Airy G town, Philadelphia
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My gracious. This love note to libraries resonated with me profoundly -- dear childhood memories conjured, aspirations for a more interconnected city rekindled. Thank you, Ms. Wisher, for penning these wonderful words. May our libraries forever exist as spaces of humane virtual reality that enrich us all.
Jonathan - West Philly
Tuesday, June 12, 2018