My bookshelf is a conglomeration of my literary experience — some of them were bought for college courses, some were picked up in curiosity, others were given as gifts. Each of them individually holds a special place inside of me, just as the books keep pieces of you as you read them (figuratively, and literally. Your DNA is definitely trapped somewhere in those pages now).
The first shelf houses fiction, where some of my favorite novels live — I first read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves when I was 14 and it changed my entire world. I probably was not intellectually mature enough to handle what that book threw at me. Nonetheless, it was necessary. Other notables are 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon — these novels were read at a strange transitional period in my life, and because of that their meanings resonate with me even more. Murakami does a beautiful job of thrusting the reader into a liminal, dream state. Read him.
The second shelf stores the bulk of my ultra-prized poetry collection. This is arguably my favorite shelf, aesthetically, and in terms of content. The look of the slim paperbacks stacked haphazardly on top of one another inspires me to collect more and more, and have these little-big stacks everywhere in my home. In terms of content, poetry is my thing. My favorites off of this shelf are Brenda Hillman’s Loose Sugar because not only is it one of my all-time collections, but also because she SIGNED IT and left me an endearing note. Priceless. Another favorite would have to be Sharon Old’s Stag’s Leap. This book was taught to me by one of my most beloved professors, so the meaning intertwines with both the concrete experience, but also, what lies in the pages themselves.
Lastly, the third shelf has a big old mix of things: nonfiction, sociological theory, philosophy, and ghost stories. My copy of The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological
Anarchy, and Poetic Terrorism, which is bookmarked by a signed sheet of paper from Kaveh Akbar. This shelf also has some copies of the literary magazine I was poetry editor for, The Phoenix.
Some things that exist around the bookshelf that I must dote on – the old radio (which still works!) was given to me on my sixteenth birthday by a friend, and on top of that rests two collections of poetry along with some beautiful zines created by some of my favorite local artists. Note the pooling of candles beside the shelves, because what poet doesn’t NEED candles, and the plastic scythe that rests behind the shelf acts as a metaphor that I haven’t been able to figure out yet. Reap what you sow?
Emme G. Marshall is a soon-to-be graduate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she studied creative writing with a concentration in poetry. Her work has been published in Public Pool, and she worked as a poetry editor for the university’s literary arts magazine The Phoenix. Some of her most favorite things are cicadas, vintage clothing, and fizzy drinks. Also, Fiona Apple.