Friday, May 24, 2013

Writing Exercise: A Poetic Beginning

For a recent writing exercise, our group started by writing a simple poem and then using that poem as a prompt for a longer piece. The poem is a special sort called a Quintain and it has specific rules. The poem has five lines, each with specific content:
1st line--one word; a noun
2nd line--two words; adjectives
3rd line--three words; verbs
4th line--a sentence that expresses feelings
5th line--repeat the first line; the noun
My poem was the following:
Full and old
Wandering, reading, relaxing
A stroll through the library is a splendid search through a cave of wonders
My longer piece is about a library of which I have fond memories.
The university library is one of the oldest buildings on the campus. Only a few expansions have made it larger; the collection itself has grown due to the gutting and reconfiguring of the back half of the building.
The library in front is a three-story building, each floor having a high ceiling. The ground floor has the check-out desks, the periodicals, and a scattering of study cubes and sitting areas for patrons to get work done or socialize a bit.
The second floor has the research department. The walls are lined with the reference materials of a hundred years: encyclopedias (general and specialized), atlases, bound volumes of journals and magazines, globes, and the inevitable racks of computer stations that have replaced the card catalogs of a by-gone era.
The third floor has the special libraries and research rooms for theology and philosophy.
Each floor has access doors to the back half of the library, where the stacks are. One leaves the open air and bright lights of the higher tech front of the building, walking into tight, short aisles between simple steel shelves jammed full of books. Naked incandescent light bulbs hang in the middle of each aisle. Halfway back, a narrow corridor cuts perpendicular to the aisles allowing access to the other stacks. Every sixth aisle is a small staircase leading to the floor above. The back of the library has six floors, not three. Each one is half the height of the front levels. It seems easy to get lost here, or to have a hard time finding the right section for your book. Hushed whispers tell of a stache found by the librarians. A desperate grad student had "misshelved" the books he needed so no one else could find them. Occasional neglected topics have left a few aisles cobwebby. The closeness causes claustrophobia. But it feels so comfortable to me. You can't have too many books.
Maybe it's too alliterative in spots. Also, I wish I'd used shorter sentences when describing the stacks to mirror the claustrophobic feeling. In case anyone is interested, the library is the Mullen Library at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

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