Off The Shelf: a Celebration of Bookshops in Verse

Off The Shelf: a Celebration of Bookshops in Verse


This collection of poems, written by a variety of poets, was collated by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy to celebrate books and bookshops. The poems within transport the reader from a Welsh arcade to a post-apocalyptic book shop and back again.

Our Review

I picked up this collection of poetry when buying a gift for someone’s birthday. I decided the book wasn’t right for them but would be a perfect addition to my bookshelves, especially as I don’t own many poetry books.

This collection contains poetry celebrating bookshops and I knew within seconds of reading the blurb that I had to buy it because as one of the poems states ‘reading is air.’

As with every collection of poems there were some I didn’t like and some that I loved. One of my favourites was Notes on Bookbarn International after a visit: with a questionnaire answered by O and L with stanzas like:

“On the banks of a Shelf,

books as stepping stones

to sunlight in barcode; transaction gold.”


What is a book like that’s never been read?

Full of secret.”

Another favourite of mine within this collection was In a Cardiff Arcade, 1952 because it seemed to capture the way buying and reading a new book can make you feel.

“What stays is not the book alone

But where you took it down,

How it felt in your hands,

How she wrapped it in brown paper,

How you carried it home.


How it holds wild seas

That knock the earth apart,

How words burn, freeze,

To break and heal your heart.”


I think the one that stayed with me longest though was Essentials because it was exactly like every experience I have ever had in a bookshop.

This collection is a must read for anyone who loves books and bookstores. 

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Our Rating

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