Thursday, 30 March 2023

American Life in Poetry: The Library of Babel

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Allison C. Rollins manages, in this striking poem, to contain the anxiety of those facing sightlessness, and the urgency they feel to try to preserve in memory, that which is fleeting.

For her, the poem is a solace, for when spoken, it prolongs sight even for blind poets like Jorge Luis Borges.

If we think of sight as more than just physical, we may get a glimpse of what Rollins may be saying in “The Library of Babel,” about one of the peculiar purposes of art.

The Library of Babel
By Allison C. Rollins
for Jorge Luis Borges

While there is still some light
on the page, I am writing now
a history of snow, of everything
that has been and will be thought.
When a blind poet says I need you
to be my eyes, they are asking to see
through your mouth.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Alison C. Rollins, “The Library of Babel” from Library of Small Catastrophes (Copper Canyon Press, 2019.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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