Enquiry Desk

Enquiry Desk
Scottish Poetry Library

Do you have the one
with that poem they read at the funeral
in that movie?

Do you have the one 
with that poem that they used to make us
learn at secondary school?

Do you have the one
with that poem that the Librarians decided was
too beautiful to catalogue and classify? 

Do you have the one 
with that poem that knows the difference between 
ae thing and anither thing? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that sat in the corner for ten years and then
exploded like a grenade in a crowded space? 

Do you have the one 
with that poem from the box of love letters
the city keeps under its bed? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that identifies the chemical properties
of the ghosts of ideas it contains? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that is a cache of weapons
which can never be put beyond use? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that has learned to impersonate 
other poems it has never met? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that has mastered chiaroscuro 
yet can also emulsion a room in an hour? 

Do you have the one
with that poem that stole into my lover’s bed
when I wasn’t reading it? 

Do you have the one 
with that poem that is bigger on the inside
that on the outside? 

Do you have the one
- you must have it – 
with that poem that is a Library in itself, 
each leaf a life we might one day live? 

I don’t know what it’s called
but it calls, it calls. 
Andy Jackson

From Umbrellas of Edinburgh (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2016), ed Russell Jones and Claire Askew, reproduced by permission of the author.

Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson was born in 1965 in Salford and moved to Scotland in 1992. In his day job, he is the Medical Librarian at Dundee University. His poems have appeared in Magma, Gutter, Northwords Now and New Writing Scotland, among other publications. 

Read more about this poet
About Enquiry Desk

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2016. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2016 was Catherine Lockerbie.

Editor's comment:

This is not a sop to the Scottish Poetry Library for commissioning this particular list of poems. It’s just a brilliant poem about poetry and our seeking for it – and indeed our seeking in general. Andy Jackson brilliantly deploys an ostensibly simple format to open up everything we long for from poetry, from life. The anthology it comes from, Umbrellas of Edinburgh, is so full of inventive and  newly commissioned work that a large proportion of my choices for the 2016 list could have simply been taken from this one book. But it had to be this one, in honour of poetry itself.

Author's note:

I’m a Librarian by profession, and over the years I have regularly fielded questions similar in tone to those posed in the poem which Catherine Lockerbie kindly selected. I’ve found that people tend to ask Librarians questions which they expect can be answered – “Do you have a book about..? Where would I find information on..?”. To date, nobody has ever come up and asked "Why are we here? What’s it all about?”. Poetry struggles and usually fails to provide simple answers to these big questions, but it often excels at answering some of the smaller ones. In this poem, I wanted to take that encounter between Librarian and Library User and show what effect a poem might have on someone. Perhaps one day someone might come into the Scottish Poetry Library and say “I’m looking for that poem about the Scottish Poetry Library…do you know the one I mean..?”.

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