‘Used Book’ : A Sonnet by Julie Kane


What luck—an open bookstore up ahead
as rain lashed awnings over Royal Street,
and then to find the books were secondhand,
with one whole wall assigned to poetry;
and then, as if that wasn’t luck enough,
to find, between Jarrell and Weldon Kees,
the blue-on-cream, familiar backbone of
my chapbook, out of print since ’83—
its cover very slightly coffee-stained,
but aging (all in all) no worse than flesh
through all those cycles of the seasons since
its publication by a London press.
Then, out of luck, I read the name inside:
The man I thought would love me till I died.

Julie Kane is an Associate Professor in English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. ‘Used Book’ won first prize in the 2007 Open Poetry International Sonnet Competition. Her book Rythym and Booze was selected by Maxine Kumin in 2003 as one of the five volumes published in the National Poetry Series.

The poem powerfully coveys the serendipity inherent in the used bookstore experience. It is not only what you might find while browsing the shelves but what might be inside what you find that moves you. Here, by finding one of her works, Kane is transported back to the ‘familiar backbone’ of her past and ponders the graceful evolution of her life and the life of the book. The reverie is shattered; however, once the book is opened and the pain of the past rushes in.

This can’t happen online. This poem is a shining example of the power of the bookshop and the impact it has on the lives of many of the people who stroll up and down its aisles.