Thirteen Ways of Looking
at Manchester Central Library

This temporary installation responding to the various spaces within Manchester Central Library was created as part of the 1997 Manchester Poetry Festival, with librarian Tang Lin.


Shakespeare is bringing back his library books.
He’ll weave his way through the stone maze, trailing
the sleeping monster that’s half-man, half-book –
himself. Up and down, round and round, see him
spin the knotted string of a poet’s thoughts.


Taste how it is to eat your words –
sit and sip the frothy syllables
of cappuccino, kiss the consonants
of quiche, savour your favourite 'o'
in scone. And when you’re done, make a meal
of the leavings, all the eavesdroppings.


How much does a single word cost?
A phrase? A page?
The poet must pay in sweat
and singing. The reader
honours his debt with interest.


The silent woman is reading
a book – all the words
written in white ink.


Wave it like a flag,
the map you carry
in the palm of your hand,
the hard currency
of your own words.


In the film of the book
of your life, everything happens
to music and you are the star,
The director and the audience,
wondering what will happen
in the next scene.


Wear your wisdom
like a hat. Forget
about getting and glory.
Just enjoy the story.
Follow the tracks.


The city’s story is written in rock,
mapped out in milestones to Longsight, Moss Side,
Wythenshaw. The city’s tales have been inked
in rain – Levenshulme, Fallowfield, Rusholme;
its names shunting north like a train –
Burnage, Collyhurst, Ladybarn, Ardwick.


Think hard enough as you read
and the clock will finally stop.

Evening will knock at the window
but never cross the threshold.


Write the libretto for silence broken by percussion
of heels on parquet, wind suck of doors
opening and closing, string section of buses braking
on the streets outside, filtered through glass, piccolo
toot and drum roll of the Xerox machine.


A book is an idea someone wants to share.
It will touch you like someone else’s skin does,
whisper in your ear like a best friend does.
It will climb between your covers at night
and fold itself softly into your dreams.


As the sun rises red in the sky
someone is reading how rain falls
and feels a breeze cool her cheek –
a page turning, the story unfolding.


So, the wheel will come full circle.
Read every book as if
it were your first, your very last.

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