Founded in 1927 by Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie, the original shop stocked mainly private press books, some poetry, and a sampling of avant-garde literature. Frequented over the years by the poets mentioned above, as well as others such as Charles Olson, Anais Nin, Seamus Heaney, Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, David Ferry, the literary tradition became well established.
In 1976, then owner, Louisa Solano, developed the Grolier as an exclusive showcase for poetry. She stocked some 15,000 current poetry volumes with an emphasis on the small press. This same year saw the co-sponsorship of the Grolier Poetry Prize with the Blacksmith House Poetry Reading Series. She also introduced the concept of autograph/reading parties. As the audiences increased, the poets moved from inside the store to the stairs. A formal reading series soon developed. Poetry street festivals were also held. In 1986 the Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Reading Series was established. Eleven colleges were represented. In 1983 for the duration of her ownership, the Ellen La Forge Memorial Poetry Foundation assumed the funding of these activities and the sole responsibility of the Prize. In 1987 she received the Women’s National Book Association Award as one of 70 Who Have Made A Difference.
In April 2006 Ms. Solano sold the Grolier Book Shop to Ifeanyi Menkiti, poet and professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, with the shop opening under new management on May 6, 2006.
Under the new ownership, the Grolier will continue to advance the cause of poetry, expanding on the foundation laid by the previous owners. It will earnestly work to develop and further interest in poetry among a wider more diversified audience, and will remain a facilitator of poets’ works through the sale of poetry books and the organization of poetry events. By thus promoting the written and spoken art of poetry, the Grolier Poetry Book Shop hopes to remain a key and vibrant player in creating a nourishing environment for the works of poets.
Poetry, we believe, has a lot to offer if only readers can learn to tap its powers by allowing themselves an openness to receive the gifts of its miraculous hand.
Ifeany Menkiti, Owner:
Born in Onitsha, Nigeria, Ifeanyi Menkiti first came to the United States to attend Pomona College from which he received his undergraduate degree. Later he went on to Columbia University and New York University for further studies. He received his Ph.D in Philosophy from Harvard University. He has taught Philosophy at Wellesley College for more than 41 years.
Ifeanyi Menkiti is the author of Before a Common Soil (2007) and Of Altair, The Bright Light (2005) and two previous collections of poetry, Affirmations (1971) and The Jubilation of Falling Bodies (1978). Other poems have appeared in journals and periodicals such as the Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, New Directions, New Letters, the Massachusetts Review. In addition, such other publications as the Evergreen Review, Stony Brook, Bitterroot, the Southwest Review, Chelsea and the African journals Okike, Transition, and Nigeria Magazine have also carried his work. In 1975, he was honored with a fellowship in poetry from Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities through the Artists Foundation, followed in 1978 by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Menkiti’s poetry has also been aired on National Public Radio and he has given public readings in the New York City public schools under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets as well as for radio stations WBAI (NYC) and WGBH (Boston).
Carol Menkiti, staff; special liaison
Elizabeth Doran, staff