Project Bookshelf: Robin LaMer Rahija

A photo of books, including Nox by Anne Carson.

Every book, everywhere, all the time. I read several books at once, depending on what room of my apartment I’m in. There are bedside books, living room books, bathroom books. Endless audio books that never show up on the shelves.

I have a lot of poetry. Anne Carson is one of my favorites. I love her translations of Sappho and Autobiography of Red, which I read a long time ago when I was still pretending I didn’t want to be a writer.

I have even more fiction. I can’t remember who said that artists never admit who their real influences are. It would be just too embarrassing. I’m owning up to reading more fiction than poetry, despite calling myself a poet. I’ve read Wittgenstein’s Mistress so many times. It’s my emotional support book. I had to get a second copy after I spilled sunscreen all over the first one. It’s not exactly a traditional beach read, but I kept it and still open it sometimes for the olfactory memory of reading it at Folly Beach.

A photo of books, including Wittgenstein's Mistress, by David Markson.

Everything I ever published as the editor of Rabbit Catastrophe Press is collected together here. It only takes up half a shelf. That half a shelf is a decade of my life. It was the most fun I ever had.

A photo of books, including Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson.

I also love this bin of zines I’ve collected over the years at festivals and books tours in basements and abandoned warehouses. Much has been said about the subversive nature of zines. I believe they contain the most experimental and interesting writing because they’re not (as) tied to the monetization of art. People can write in them what they need to write.

A photo of zines.

The last time I moved, it became clear I had TOO MANY BOOKS. I did a big pare down and gave myself a challenge: buy no books for a year. Instead, I used the library and had an elaborate network of borrowing books from people. I made exceptions if a friend put out a book (you have to support your friends) and if I went to a reading for someone on a book tour (working writers need gas money). I mostly rose to the challenge, and even though I have fewer books now, I think I look at, talk about, run a hand over, and browse through my bookshelves more than I used to. They are filled with books I love by the people I love.

Robin LaMer Rahija (she/her) did her MFA in poetry at the University of Kentucky. Her work has appeared in Puerto Del Sol, FENCE, Guernica, and elsewhere. She is an Editorial Intern at Sundress Publications. She loves books, trees, and Excel documents.

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