Study Guide

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Stanza 4

By Nikki Giovanni

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Stanza 4

Lines 27-30

Mrs. Long asking what are you looking for today
When I wanted Leaves of Grass or alfred north whitehead
She would go to the big library uptown and I now know
Hat in hand to ask to borrow so that I might borrow

  • This stanza begins with an enjambed line, so make sure you read straight through from stanza 3 to get the proper meaning. When you do, you'll realize that things begin to get serious in this stanza. 
  • Young Giovanni wants to read Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, often considered one of the best books of American poetry (and also, BTW, poetry written in free verse, like Giovanni's). 
  • She's also looking for the work of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who believed that everything in the world is related and that everything we do has consequences. (We think this is an especially appropriate choice in a poem celebrating the actions of Mrs. Long.)
  • We're getting the first hints that things are not as comfy and cozy in Giovanni's "safe" world. Mrs. Long has to go "hat in hand" to the "big library uptown" to ask for the books.
  • There is a tone of admiration in line 30, when Giovanni points out that Mrs. Long is borrowing the books for her. It's like Mrs. Long puts herself between Giovanni and the big, ugly world so that she can spend more time as a child and have more time to live in a beautiful world of ideas.
  • There's also a great, bobbing rhythm in line 30 created by the repetition of the word "borrow" and by the parallel structures of the two phrases "to ask to borrow" and "so that I might borrow." 
  • If you can't hear how well-balanced and rhythmical that line is, consider substituting a different verb form of "ask" and try that: "Hat in hand asking to borrow so that I might borrow." (When we do that, "asking" really puts a stop to the flow of the line, right?)

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