Our latest ‘My Favourite Indie’ feature comes from Daljit Nagra, the Forward Prize-winning and T. S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted poet, whose most recent poetry collection, British Museum, was published by Faber this year. Here, Daljit discusses his appreciation of the care that goes into filling the London Review Bookshop and the poetry he has discovered in their basement.
My perfect bookshop is the LRB shop in Pied Bull Yard, near the British Museum and better still, near my beloved publisher Faber & Faber. I always feel glad to be in the LRB, not only because its staff are friendly and supremely knowledgeable, but because it is free of populist books, so no stacks that imply that imagination can be bought in the way we buy tins of tomatoes from a supermarket. Instead, the LRB is floor-to-wall slickly packed with books that, in many cases, are indifferent to good sales figures!
Best of all, and the real reason why I love the LRB, is that it has a basement, and that feeds into my love of books as being underground and subversive, and furthermore my belief that books are still vital and can save us from the numbness of materialism. The first thing that always hits me as I descend the wide steps is the poetry pamphlets that issue from the walls and stand on Perspex and beckon me on with their alternative worlds of fleeting whimsy. Once past these, I am ensconced in the walls stacked with poetry books.
While browsing, I have discovered many poets, who in some cases were new to me. Whilst roaming the shelves, I first came across Alice Notley’s wide-paged Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems published by Wesleyan Poetry, W. S. Merwin’s The Carrier of Ladders, the 1980 Atheneum edition, and last year I plucked from the shelves the American edition of Robyn Schiff’s A Woman of Property.
A poet whose work I admire is Czesław Miłosz and I came across his non-fiction. I didn’t know he wrote non-fiction; over several visits to the shop, I picked off books such as Native Realm and The Captive Mind. With each visit to the shop, I usually make a new discovery and this has to be the hallmark of a good bookshop.