The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Allen Ginsberg’

House of Poesy: At the Grolier Poetry Book Shop

February 26, 2013 | by

2344815284_eef84104c5The Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is both a misnomer and an anomaly. It has long dedicated itself to the task of promoting the reading and writing of poetry and has, for eighty-five years, served as a niche for poets the world over. While its reputation has bloomed over the years, thanks largely to word-of-mouth praise, it has never fared well financially, partly due to competition from larger stores and the Internet, partly because poetry has never been popular with the masses, and partly because its founder seems to have done everything in his power to ensure that his store not be turned into a business.

Located on Plympton Street in Harvard Square, the Grolier occupies just 404 square feet of space and is dwarfed by the neighboring Harvard Book Store. A white square sign with meticulous black lettering juts out near the top of the store entrance. The font size decreases from top to bottom, much like on an eye exam chart, and one can just make out, at the very top, a finely done illustration of three cats (or is it the same cat?) dozing, grooming, and turning their backs on the viewer.

Upon ascending a small flight of steps, one is greeted by the sight of an abundance of colorful spines—approximately fifteen thousand—neatly arranged against nearly every flat surface of the shop. These volumes are neatly balkanized into several categories, including anthologies, used, African-American, early English, Irish, Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Indian, Latin, classical Greek, Japanese, Korean, East European, Spanish, and Catalan.

Above the towering shelves are approximately seventy black and white photos (many courtesy of the photographer Elsa Dorfman) of poets and other members of the literati for whom the Grolier has served as a meeting place for well over half a century. Among the Grolier’s most illustrious visitors, most of whom are smiling or gazing sagely and serenely ahead in the photos, are T. S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, e. e. cummings, Marianne Moore, James Tate, Donald Hall, and Helen Vendler.

Off to one side at the front of the store sits a lean shelf of chapbooks and a donation jar; a small note says that the chapbooks have been generously donated by the author and that monetary contributions to the shop would be greatly appreciated. Directly across this bookcase is the cash register, propped up on a desk and flanked by sundry items, including bookmarks, promotional literature, pamphlets, business cards, and commemorative pens. On the wall right adjacent to the register hangs a certificate from Boston Magazine honoring the Grolier as the best poetry store of 1994. Read More »

20 COMMENTS

Allen Ginsberg Snaps, and Other News

January 25, 2013 | by

  • Should you fancy some of the two-foot letters from the recently disassembled Borders flagship sign, you can bid for them on eBay, with all profits going to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. And as someone who owns an S from an old marquee, I will judge you not at all.
  • An exhibition of beat-era Allen Ginsberg photographs is on display at Grey Art Gallery. The captions, which read like speedy mini-poems, are the best part.
  • The Following, a new Fox drama that features—along with Kevin Bacon and many other things—a Poe-obsessed serial killer, is probably no threat to the author’s legacy. However, it’s fun to read the tally of the show’s crimes against literature.
  • “I haven’t read my rivals because I think it could be a deeply demoralising process,” quoth Hilary Mantel.
  • Oh, and Judge Dredd might be gay.

  • NO COMMENTS

    October Surprise; or, How to Follow a Perfect Season

    October 2, 2012 | by

    My grandfather died in St. Louis last year on October eighth. The following night, Chris Carpenter pitched a three-hitter against the Phillies, lifting the Cardinals into the NLCS and alerting the nation that rather than just a squad of plucky underdogs, the Cardinals might be a team touched by something phenomenologically greater than a hot streak. For certain members of my family, my grandfather’s mid-playoff death offered a locus for the sense of destiny awakening around the Cardinals; in the weeks to come, as the team mounted increasingly improbable victories, more than one relative offered comments in the vein of, “Wally had something to do with this!” or “Wally was watching over the Cardinals last night!” Being a skeptical and ragged Catholic, I responded to these remarks with quiet derision, as I do to all suggestions that the Almighty would choose to meddle in the outcomes of our mortal diversions.

    But as the weather here in St. Louis finally cools after a boiling, interminable summer—a summer that saw the maddening Cardinals muddle their way to a fragile hold on one of the devalued wild-card spots—I find it difficult not to look back on last fall’s championship run and see a team touched by divinity, or magic, or fate—a moment when a higher realm reached through the portal of sport and touched this mortal plane. The Cardinals may well make the playoffs this year, but I have to confess that I’m finding it hard to care. Whatever illumed last season, it’s gone, and here in St. Louis, we’re learning to live in its aftermath.

    “Baseball,” as Michael Chabon observed in McSweeney’s no. 36, is “a game that somehow seems to offer more room, a greater scope than other sports, for the consciousness of failure and defeat—has always been associated, in its own history and my own, with a sense of loss, the idea of the lost arcadia, the last patch of green folded into a pocket of the world of brick and asphalt.” The sport is a dissonant blend of nostalgia and modernity. On the one hand, as Chabon says, it is a sport stubbornly resistant to change. The unhurried pace, the managers in uniform, the persistence of Fenway and Wrigley, the timeless sound of vendors calling out over the chatter of multitudes—these are all dogged holdouts, boulders in the stream of capital-P Progress, a refuge of familiarity in a world that often feels bent upon making itself unfamiliar from one day to the next. As George Carlin once put it, the objective of baseball is to go home.

    Read More »

    5 COMMENTS

    Writerly Recipes, Great Closers

    July 30, 2012 | by

  • Vintage book art.
  • The strange case of the Aleppo Codex.
  • Eat like your favorite writers. (Maybe not Fitzgerald. Or Ginsberg.)
  • The Boston of Infinite Jest.
  • The ten best closing lines in literature.











  • [tweetbutton]

    [facebook_ilike]

    4 COMMENTS

    Taylor Mead’s Lost East Village

    June 11, 2012 | by

    Taylor Mead is dishing gossip. “For our final exam”—in boarding school, where he studied English with the novelist John Horne Burns—“he said, write four hundred to five hundred lines of poetry from memory. It was unbelievable. He killed poetry for me. I haven’t been able to read more than two poems a month since.” Burns would later write a novel loosely based on his time teaching at the school, rife with homosexual undertones. Taylor said he would have enjoyed school if he knew all the great stuff that was happening behind the scenes. “If they want me to make a commencement speech, they better fasten their seat belts,” he joked.

    Taylor sat across from me at a small table near the front door of Lucien, a French bistro on First Avenue near the corner of First Street. When I walked in the door, the legendary East Village resident and professional bohemian was already sipping from a glass of Dewar’s, waiting patiently. Lucien is Taylor’s favorite restaurant; it’s one of the few places he leaves the apartment for. At eighty-seven, he still resides in the neighborhood he has called home, more or less, for more than four decades. Now, though, he has trouble walking more than a few blocks. Read More »

    7 COMMENTS

    Hemingway Hotels, Customized Austen, Literary Shame

    April 20, 2012 | by

  • Listen to Allen Ginsberg reading “What Would You Do If You Lost It?” at the 92nd Street Y in 1973.
  • One can now purchase a customized classic—think Pride and Prejudice—featuring you as a character.
  • Incredibly lovely calligraphy, in action.
  • Ted Hughes’s ninety-two-year-old brother, Gerald, is writing a memoir about the boys’ Yorkshire childhood.
  • Shameful reading confessions.
  • The life of the pencil elitist.
  • The Roots, Chris Martin, Regina Spektor, and … Captain Ahab. People of the Book unite! (Adorably.)
  • Hemingway’s estate is starting a hotel chain. Hemingway Hotels and Resorts will be Papa-themed. Says the Web site, “An artist needs inspiration to flourish, and so Hemingway was drawn to the world’s most beautiful locales: Paris, Spain, Venice, Key West, Havana, Idaho. Hemingway Hotels will also be found there, and in other beautiful places around the world, in cities and in nature, on beaches and in mountains. Only select hotels will be approved for this iconic brand. For each Hemingway Hotel must be true to its environment, unique architecturally, and committed to providing guests with active, passionate one-of-a-kind experiences that deeply enrich their lives.”
  • 2 COMMENTS