Over the New Year break while I was browsing at the Southbank Poetry Library, I noticed a sign on the door about recent thefts. Apparently the staff have had to do bag searches because this has been a problem over the past few months. I have to admit I was as much surprised as I was annoyed. Surprised because I didn’t think the type of people who would appreciate poetry would be the type to steal books. This isn’t an entirely unjustified thought, when you consider that during the 2011 riots, it was interesting to note how all the shoes/ clothes/ food shops at Clapham Junction were shown on the news being broken into and looted, leaving only the Waterstones bookstore untouched among the chaos. Incidentally, that particular store has now closed.
I’ve also noticed when I go book shopping myself, in any of the numerous Waterstones/ Foyles stores in central London, that the poetry section at any branch is not only small, but virtually empty. Of course, this might be something to do with shoppers buying poetry ebooks or shopping through Amazon, but I’d always assumed that poetry catered for a small market anyway. So, while the guilty part of me has to admit I was happy to note how popular poetry actually is, it really annoyed me to think of people stealing from poets who work hard, and often for no profit! Poetry is mostly a labour of love – a love of performing live, a love of the spoken word, an appreciation of having a nicely printed and bound collection of work… all to be nicked by some inconsiderate person, albeit with good taste!