The Library of James Harvey

My library is an enormous part of my life. As needs must in London, I inhabit one room, and the entirety of its walls are made up of bookshelves, overfilled with books. They are stacked on my desk, my floor, in bags, in towers. I spend time just observing them, taking their number, their colour into my mind. I see them in their hundreds and even thousands before I go to sleep and as I wake up. I choose them over the company of others often. I read at least two or three hours a day and write so often because I have read. I steal regularly, and if I'm not stealing from what I'm reading, I'm using it to begin my writing.

When James' family sent out an invitation to his friends and fellow poets to come to his flat and take from his library, as a way of privately and meaningfully distributing his books and gifting his friends a physical memento it was especially resonant to me. I am sure now, having spent some time doing so, with my friends and his wonderful family, that the unspoken necessity of books in my life was shared by James and every else who was present. His taste was a testament to him, and this might seem a slight and flippant compliment in the face of a man's death, but it isn't to me. I could see from who he read and how he read and how often he read, he would've taken this as I intend it. Moreover, his family knew him so well to think this gesture, this generosity to others would please him, and by saying I am of course not speaking for him, or claiming any knowledge of him, but for myself. This is exactly how I would like my books to be dealt with when I die. Invite my friends to my room, have them take as much and as many as they wish to carry, and let them actually be read, be thumbed over in the company of those truly appreciate and love them as I love them.

I live within a bus ride of James' flat, and I am by nature ambitious, so I left this bibliowake with three bags wortho books. Included in these titles were works by a list of poets and writers that I might have named as my very favourites, thinking, naively, that that list would be very personal and rarified and idiosyncratic. Handke, Khlebnikov, Ekelof, Michaux, Paz, Eigner, Herbert, Eliade, Rilke, Pound, Beckett, Hilson, OSullivan, Jaeger and James Harvey himself. The picture shows some of what I have inherited.

I have tried to say as much above, and to the people I met today, going through this library, full of true joy and inspiration and excitement and guilt, but this was a profound and personal experience for me, a privilege and humbling one at that. I am left only with more time to think of James amidst the new books that will slip easily into my already overlarge collection.