Project Bookshelf: Lyra Thomas

Long before Instagram, Twitter, and dare-I-say, Myspace, books were the center of my world. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading me bedtime stories from a massive pink book complete with mesmerizing illustrations from the bargain bin at Sam’s Club. She would take the time to give all the characters different voicesthe princesses, the witches, even each different bear in Goldilocks. I looked forward to it every night. 

Books continued to act as a balm on the effects of the real world long into my adolescence. I found myself lost in bestsellers like Inkheart and The Lightning Thief. This was also around the time I started writing my own stories on my 2006 iMac G5. I took my mom’s teacher subscription to Microsoft Office and went absolutely wild. 

Today, on my bookshelf you’ll find every diary I’ve ever owned from 2006 to now, about two dozen fiction books, and the rest are poetry collections I’ve gathered from high school until now. I remember fondly driving home to St. Louis for the holidays in undergrad and stopping by my favorite bookstore, Subterranean Books, before even telling anybody I was in the area. It was there that I picked up some of my favorites like Date and Time by Phil Kaye and To Drink Coffee With a Ghost by Amanda Lovelace. Of course, my shelves are littered with novels from my courses, or at least, the ones I liked. I couldn’t bear to donate my copy of Pass Over by Antonitte Nwandu that a friend gave to me at the end of a playwriting class we took together, or Human Chain by Seamus Heaney from one of my best undergraduate seminars.

I’ll be honest: I have not read every book in my bookshelf. Want the truth? Half my shelves are what I want to read, and half is what I have read already. Although that latter half could be separated into “books I read and loved” and “books I read and am too attached to get rid of.” I heard once about a study that resulted in the consensus that a sizable amount of people feel like their phone is a part of them, and to lose it would be highly distressing. I feel that way about my books (and my phone, but that’s not the point). Some of them, I can remember where I got it, how I felt reading through certain scenes, and what stayed with me. I can remember when it made me laugh or cry, just like any other memory, but it’s not intangible like actual memories are, you see, because I can go back whenever I want if I just flip a page.

Lyra Thomas is a black nonbinary poet from the St Louis area, currently residing in Carbondale, IL for their MFA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University, which is also their alma mater. They received their BA in Creative Writing in 2018. Lyra enjoys reading/writing poetry, curating Spotify playlists, and cuddling with their cats Max and Silver.


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