Byron rowed his own gondola to the island of San Lazzaro to learn Armenian but, standing in the monastery’s climate-controlled manuscript library, it became clear that the importance of this diamond-shaped scrap of a leper colony in the Venetian lagoon was far greater than its casual association with the bad boy of English letters.
The Mekhitarist monk showing us around gestured to the library. “Here is our history and culture.”
Even if you don’t have a library card, even if you don’t understand why the government can’t just buy pensioners Kindles and tell them to download their Mills and Boons instead, the library is still the closest thing that we have to a cradle for our soul – and a cargo this precious must be carried gently.
Not living that close to London, I’ve only visited the Saison Poetry Library once, but it was easy to feel at home among the shelves. We all know that you don’t find much poetry in the local bookshop or library so, even as a stranger in a strange land, the Poetry Library felt like a sort of home – keeper of the flame – years before we know what we’ll need – years before we are born.
Nell Nelson’s piece on the Scottish Poetry Library explains why it needs our money and, in the age of blogs and podcasts, all global citizens stand to benefit from the existence of a valuable cultural beacon like this and, when we give, we know that it’ll be about something bigger than books and buildings. We’re investing in the best of ourselves and we’re doing it so our children, our children’s children, can live in a world with a healthy beating heart, with soul – with poetry.