Harris Gardner:

Boston area poetry coordinator lines up behind Nov. 30 "Words of Comfort"

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent

Within the local poetry scene, there are satellites of luminaries who work their love of the word to the utmost, in a constant whirl of networking, promoting, publishing and sponsoring of events and causes.

Not content to be mere audience members or open mic contributors, poetry is not a spectator sport for Harris Gardner and his ilk, who are for all intents the erudite cogs that grind the wheels of lyrical motion in our city.

Gardner's Tapestry of Voices effort, which, he says, is "dedicated to weaving poetry into the social fabric", convenes on the second Thursday of each month at Border's Bookstore in downtown Boston, across from the Advocate office at School and Washington Streets. It is only one of the numerous poetic productions he has long masterminded.

As Special Events Coordinator for Stone Soup Poetry, he implemented and coordinated myriad events including ongoing reading series at Walden Pond, Bestsellers Book Store, the John Greenleaf Whittier Home in Amesbury, the State House, Lesley College, Northeastern University, Boston Conservatory, the Boston Public and other area libraries.

The Northeastern graduate and sole proprietor of Boston's Gardner Group Real Estate authored the 1998 collection Chalice of Eros, a volume of 50 poems, and he has featured at numerous venues such as varied Borders, Lauriat's, Rhythm and Muse, McIntyre and Moore and other statewide locales. His publishing credits are manifold; his work has appeared in, among other publications, Spare Change, the Umbrella, The Beacon Hill Chronicle, South Boston Literary Gazette, the Harvard Review and Ibbetson Street Press' Anthology: City of Poets.

"I grew up in Lynn," Gardner recalls, "in a conservative Jewish home. My father was raised Orthodox; he died when I was 15." He went to the Orthodox minyan for the year of mourning; his Judaic values remain firm.

As for his work, Gardner says that his poetry "encompasses a broad range of themes: social statements, Creation/nature/family, the poetic process, personal conversations with G-d (influenced by Job and other sources, he adds), love, relationships - the list is endless.

"My first book, Chalice of Eros, co-authored with Lainie Senechal," he continues, "encompasses this diversity. The first half reflects our relationship, evocative of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that is, a series of response poems depicting the highest quality of love without any saccharine distraction. The second half celebrates nature, creation and some social themes."

His 16-poem chapbook "Lest They Become", taken from a line in Genesis, is currently making the rounds to publishers. Its pieces reflect Biblical and family themes.

Gardner's next two events are Thursday, December 13 at Borders, featuring local and national poets Diana Der Hovanessian, David Rivard, Kurt Brown and Laureanne Bosselaar. Sign up is at 6:30, open mike at 7:30; the event is free, and the series continues on the second Thursday of each month

And on December 30, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., his Tapestry of Voices is co-sponsoring a moving "Words to Comfort" event with the Joiner Center for the Study of War and its Social Consequences at U. Mass. Boston. This group was begun over 20 years ago by Vietnam vets who became opposed to the war. The event, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, opposite Boston Common at 138 Tremont St., will benefit the World Trade Center Relief Fund, and features 50 readers, including Northeastern Hillel's Rabbi Karen Landy (who will be reading before Shabbat), Ellen Steinbaum, Douglas Holder and Gardner. Also on the bill are Imam Tallal Eid, the spiritual leader of the New England Muslim community, the Canon of St. Paul's Church, Michael Sullivan, Director of the Boston City Police Support and Stress Unit (which has been sending teams to Ground Zero), Paul A. Christian (the new Fire Commissioner of Boston), as well as teachers, a 6th grader, veterans, nurses and doctors. Ram Divineni is the four-state coordinator of the benefit.