Grolier Poetry Book Shop celebrates its 95th anniversary | Arts

The Grolier Poetry Book Shop celebrated its 95th anniversary on Sunday, October 9, and just down the street from Harvard Crimson, Grolier has stood between the Harvard Book Store and Hampden Hall for its 95 years of existence. On Sunday, more than 20 poets and friends of Grollier gathered on Brattle Street for poetry readings and live music.

Porsha R. J. Olayola, a Boston-area poet and educator, has performed many of the original poems that covered topics ranging from water to the black diaspora. Many poets, including herself, presented new, unpublished poems from manuscripts in progress. One of Olayiwola’s play poems was a collection of quotes inspired by her time in Provincetown, Massachusetts, last summer.

“As someone who writes poetry specifically, I think it is necessary to have places specifically for poetry,” Olayiwola said. “Poetry needs to become institutionalized as an art form, as a literary form, because it is so integral to our everyday experiences that we experience, and how we perceive the world.”

For Anna V. Q. Ross, a poet and poetry editor who also performed at the Sunday Street Festival, Grolier’s community has been pivotal to her life and work since she moved to Boston more than 20 years ago. I read tracks from her latest collection, due out next month – poems grappling with motherhood and school shootings.

“At the beginning of my teaching career, I had a student, in the middle of class, raise his hand and ask, ‘Do people still write poetry?’” Ross said. “I realized that for poetry to be a living art, we had to make sure that our students knew that it was in the world now. That’s what Grolier does.”

James J. Fraser, who has been Grolier’s manager since February 2022, said he first came to the store after being invited to help run the store’s poetry festival. He remained, however, for the sake of poems. “I love books,” he said, “so naturally this would be a good place to be.”

Was Grolier was established In 1927 by Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie, their portrait adorns the walls at 6 Plympton St. Along with photos of other sponsors. According to Fraser, Cairnie ran Grolier as first editions, rare books and a poetry library. He established it as a place where local writers could hang out.

“Gordon was friends with the likes of Ezra Pound, James Laughlin, and many other Harvard students,” Fraser said. “For example, Frank O’Hara would come here back in the day.”

But Fraser noted that Kearney’s shop wasn’t always comprehensive: “During Gordon’s era, it was known as the Boys’ Club. There was a couch where the record is now and people would come here and hang out; Gordon wasn’t really interested in selling books, he was giving it away.”

In the 1970s, when Luisa Solano became the store’s owner after Kearney’s death, Grolier became the poetry center it is today and took on a more inclusive vibe.

In 2006, Grolier was sold to Ifeanyi Menkiti, poet and professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, who ran the shop until his death in 2019. The shop is still owned and operated by his family, and its mission is to continue developing his poetry. concentration.

Andrea L. Fry and John M. Fry, two of the attendees at the 95th anniversary celebration, said they come all the time to Grolier. The late Ifeanyi Menkiti was Andrea’s uncle.

Ifeanyi not only kept [the Grolier] He is alive but has kept growing, continuing to grow under the leadership of his family, wife Carol and their daughter Ndidi. “We grew up with her, and it became very important to us,” said Andrea, a nurse practitioner and published poet.

Independent hair shops mean the world to people like John and Andrea. These are the people who organize the thoughts of others; “They manage other people’s expectations in terms of hair,” John said. “That’s true in New York as well as Boston with Grolier.”

—Staff writer Karen Z. sung at karen.song@thecrimson.com.

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