NaPoWriMo 2019: Day 8

Today’s prompt: “think about the argot of a particular job or profession, and see how you can incorporate it into a metaphor that governs or drives your poem.” (http://www.napowrimo.net/day-eight-6/)

Weeding

Everyone knows weeding
keeps a garden healthy.

Everyone knows weeding
is necessary in order

For plants to grow.
But isn’t a weed a plant?

Why is a rose more beautiful
than a dandelion?

At least a dandelion
is more useful.

But isn’t beauty useful, too?

 

This poem might require a bit of explication: after all, “weeding” in the context of gardening isn’t much of a unique argot. But I also come to the word as a librarian, where “weeding” is how we maintain our collections of materials: the process of deciding what to get rid of to make space for new. After all, a library can only fit so much on a shelf and it doesn’t help our patrons to hold onto things that no one checks out anymore.

I was raised by an avid gardener and my wife gardens. For me, gardening is the perfect metaphor for libraries: one fertilizes the growth of plants, both edible and beautiful, and one the growth of minds, culture, and knowledge. Weeding keeps a library healthy the same way it keeps a garden healthy.

Libraries wrestle every day with questions about what to weed, what to add to our collections (what to plant), and why. Every day, we wrestle with the compromises and frequent contradictions of how to make these decisions. Adding and removing books from a library isn’t just about the book: it affects how we provide access to the ideas contained within them. Who decides which ideas to plant and which to weed? These decisions need to be made (we only have so much shelf space, after all) but they’re never easy and never perfect.

So a library is like a garden in that it’s not just about each individual plant: it’s about the garden as a whole. It’s like a garden in that the work is never done. It’s like a garden in that you never achieve perfection: some plants don’t grow and some weeds gets overlooked, some seasons are ripe and some are drought. Today’s weeds become tomorrow’s desired plants and some desired plants turn out to be invasive weeds.

More than this: a library is a community garden in which everyone in the community plays a role in keeping it healthy. We have to weed but we can’t allow ourselves to stop asking the essential question: Who gets to decide what’s a weed and what isn’t?

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