second hand books


Some of my favourite second hand bookshops are simply high street charity shops, or locally run second-hand stores that haven’t had a dusting in years. It’s something about the mystery that is so compelling, and there have been many times where I have picked up a book by an author I’ve never heard the name of before. A lot of the time it matters more whether I like the feel and weight of a book than the name on the cover in terms of what I buy.


First on the list, which I’m currently reading, is Thom Gunn’s ‘The Man With The Night Sweats’. The blurb promises themes ‘both intimate and social’, with the last few poems ‘about the deaths of friends from AIDS’. A 1990’s Faber copy weighing in at 88 pages, I believe this is one of the first editions of this collection.

Also in the Faber section of the haul is T.S. Eliot’s ‘Selected Poems’, a much more weathered library copy. When opened at home, I discovered the book had a page of another book – Eliot’s poem ‘Landscapes’ carefully cut out and placed inside this text. I wondered if the staff had noticed and left it there. Faber’s ‘Modern Poets Five’ includes a list of names I do not recognise but am excited to read. Edited by Jim Hunter, the text includes short biographies on each author as well as a few notes to help the understanding of the poems.


A similar find, ‘Penguin Modern Poets 9’ has made its way to my home, including poetry by Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth, and William Carlos Williams, showing this text’s age, which was first published in 1967. Another Penguin series I have become interested in is the Penguin Modern European Poets, which promises to present ‘the work of significant poets of this century for readers unfamiliar with the original languages’. This time, I picked up Eugenio Montale, another new name for me.

The two larger, solo collections I picked up are William Blake, and John Betjeman’s Collected Poems. William Blake is a classroom favourite, but this book includes more than just Songs of Innocence and Experience, and I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge of Blake’s poetry. John Betjeman’s poetry is unfamiliar to me, but I was sold on the book after reading a few stanzas of Winter Seascape.


I also picked up a collection of Eighteenth Century Verse, which I think will follow on nicely from studying seventeenth century poetry last semester.

It won’t be possible for me to review or write about all of these books, and certain authors such as William Blake have been done to death already. But, those that I feel are worth commenting on will receive their places, even if it is only in my end of the month round up.

Until again…