A Ribbon of Words

Encircles the Room

state-library-of-victoria-image by David Mark on Pixabay

Books have always been my best friends, and poetry makes me feel a little less alone in the world. Is this your experience? I somehow know your answer is yes. We share a love for words — how they feel when we speak them and how they look on the page.

Sometimes I read a quote that stops me in my tracks.

I have a small book where I collect the ones I treasure the most. I love it when I find another meaning when I read them the second time around.

My friend recently visited the State Library in Melbourne, where there is a massive reading room. The La Trobe Reading Room is six storeys high, with room for 32,000 books, and the walls are circled with “A Ribbon of Words” — a selection of quotes about books and writing. The band of quotations circles the room above the shelves.

To stand in such a space, breathing the air shared by so many authors is my idea of church.

One of my dream vacations is to tour the great libraries in the world. This one is now on the list.

I feel that books are our greatest contribution to human legacy, and libraries are the gateway to conversations with the past. They are also our path to the future, for history holds the lessons we need to go forward.

The poet David Whyte expressed the sentiment best when he wrote:

“The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid.

Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.”

When I read the words “Poetry is a break for freedom,” I can feel their truth in my heart. I hope they sing in yours as well.

Here are the quotes found in the Ribbon of Words.

  • No two people read the same book ∼ Edmund Wilson
  • The true University of these days is a collection of books ∼ Thomas Carlyle
  • Wide and independent reading-self-education-is what matters ∼ Patrick White
  • Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey ∼ Anna Quindlen.
  • Let’s save old books and study them with care ∼ Phùng Khác Khoan
  • Read in order to live ∼ Gustave Flaubert
  • No place can be chosen more likely to arouse and exalt such feelings than this apartment, reared in honor of literature ∼ Redmond Barry
  • Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy ∼ Germaine Greer
  • Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations ∼ Henry David Thoreau
  • The chief glory of every people arises from its authors ∼ Samuel Johnson
  • A public library is the most democratic thing in the world ∼ Doris Lessing
  • Until I feared to lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing ∼ Harper Lee
  • Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies ∼ John Milton
  • Words on the page are never prisoners of the page ∼ Sonya Hartnett
  • Writers speak for those who are kept in silence ∼ Isabel Allende
  • A real book is not one that’s read, but one that reads us ∼ W H Auden
  • Blessed are those who are privileged to read what they like ∼ Dorothy Green
  • Books can warm the heart with friendly words and counsel, entering into a close relationship with us which is articulate and alive ∼ Francesco Petrarch
  • One must be an inventor to read well ∼ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The Public Library is at once the product of democracy and a sign of faith in universal education as a life-long process ∼ Irving Benson
  • Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know, are a substantial world, both pure and good ∼ William Wordsworth
  • Books are the threads from which the fabric of our culture and civilization are woven ∼ Richard W Clement
  • One reads in order to ask questions ∼ Franz Kafka
  • Books, the children of the brain ∼ Jonathon Swift
  • The Dome and its ascending galleries seemed like a giant brain vaulting towards the heavens ∼ Arnold Zable
  • Stories are the way to feel you belong ∼ Boori Monty Pryor
  • Nobody has the last word ∼ Brenda Walker
  • The studious silence of the library … Tranquil brightness ∼ James Joyce
  • To slide into the Domed Reading Room at ten each morning, specially in summer, off the hot street outside, was a sensation as delicious as dropping into the water off the concrete edge of the Fitzroy baths ∼ Helen Garner
  • But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think ∼ Lord Byron
  • Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow ∼ William Shakespeare
  • There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away, nor any coursers like a page of prancing poetry ∼ Emily Dickinson
  • I, who had always thought of Paradise in form and image as a library ∼ Jorge Luis Borges
  • The word is the making of the world ∼ Wallace Stevens
  • A study lamp, a desk make two old friends … Rejoice — the ancient spirit thrives again. For those who read a word or two there’s hope ∼ Nguyeěen Trãi
  • The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest men of past centuries ∼ René Descartes
  • You can make initial contact with someone who does not speak your language with signs or smiles, but to communicate you need words. So it is with a nation; to understand it you have to read its books ∼ Geoffrey Dutton
  • A person cannot contribute to humanity without knowledge … Only a person with a free soul, a person who has no use for fear, can contribute to this world’s betterment ∼ Pramoeda Ananta Toer

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