Poetry Society of America
Sponsors Sept. 23 Celebration of Grolier’s 75th at Sanders Theatre
By Susie Davidson
A milestone in local literary history will occur Sept. 23 when renowned poets join with the Poetry Society of America to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Cambridge’s Grolier Poetry Book Shop.
In a collaboration between the oldest poetry organization and the oldest continuous poetry bookstore in the country, the Sanders Theatre event, scheduled for 7 p.m., will feature readings by Frank Bidart, Robert Creeley, Mart’n Espada, Jorie Graham, Eamon Grennan, Donald Hall, Seamus Heaney, Marie Howe, Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, Peter Sacks, and James Tate.
Founded in 1927 by Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie, Grolier holds a longstanding distinction among both poets and poetry aficionados; its frequenters have included e.e. cummings, T. S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Moore, Charles Olson, and thousands more. Under the auspices of owner Louisa Solano, the store has, since 1974, expanded its outreach to the local poetry community with autograph parties, poetry workshops, the Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Reading, and an annual Poetry Festival, as well as its annual Grolier Poetry Prize.
“Grolier is a nourishing source for thirsty and hungry poets and readers of poetry,” said PSA Programs Director Eve Grubin, who along with Executive Director Alice Quinn orchestrated most of the event’s logistics. “We hope that this celebration will give poets and poetry lovers the opportunity to honor a place that helps poets to grow and allows them to thrive.”
According to Grolier proprietor Louisa Solano, it’s a celebration of solidarity as well. “These people are my friends,” she said from her store. “It’s more than just that they shop here.” The respectful acquaintance with each has been lengthy indeed. “If you add up all the years that I’ve known each person, they would equal 300,” she reflected.
The PSA chose the participating poets because of their connection to the store. All live, or have lived, in Cambridge, and have shopped there. Furthermore, they are poets with their own local fan bases. It is anticipated that the audience they will attract will learn about Grolier, if they don’t already know it well, and will consequently visit and help support the store.
“When I first entered the store in late 1955,” recalled Solano, “I would never have believed that I would shepherd the store to the 75 year mark. My first lease was for one month, my bank loan for three. It has been a privilege to have this shop as my life. The atmosphere is rich with the voices and creativity of the people who have passed through here.”
At the Sanders event, The PSA will be selling hundreds of Pulitzer-prize winning poet Louise Gluck broadsides, with all proceeds going directly to the store. Some of the broadsides will be signed by all participating poets; these will be sold at a higher price.
Neither the PSA nor Grolier has any formal affiliation with either Sanders or Harvard. “We chose that venue,” said Grubin, “because it is a large auditorium and because Robert Pinksy suggested it, and Louisa also seemed to like the idea of having it there.”
The Poetry Society creates poetry events across the country; their Poetry in Motion program also puts poems on public transportation in 14 cities. They sponsor poetry awards and contests and publish a chapbook series as well as the bi-annual poetry magazine Crossroads. PSA members receive a discount on Grolier books.
There will be a second Grolier benefit on Nov. 8 at Harvard’s Sackler Museum, promoted by the administrators of Chicago-based Source Books’ audio and written anthology "Poetry Speaks." But first, the 75th gala.
“I am delighted that the Poetry Society of America could bring 12 of my favorite poets together,” said Solano. “I think it will be an absolutely perfect night.”
Tickets, $10 for students and members of the PSA and $20 for others, can be obtained at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, 6 Plympton St., or through Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St. at Kirkland St., by calling 617-496-2222 or visiting www.fas.harvard.edu/~tickets. For more information on the event itself, please call 212-254-9628 or visit www.poetrysociety.org.