The Grolier Poetry Book Shop has held readings for almost a century now. John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, and Frank O’Hara were regular visitors while undergraduates at Harvard. Conrad Aiken lived upstairs from the store in its early days. e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Robert Lowell, are a short list of poets and writers who have read at the Grolier.
Current long-time friends include: Donald Hall, David Ferry, Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, Peter Balakian, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Lloyd Schwartz, Kathleen Spivack, and Fanny Howe.
Travel books list the Grolier as a “place to visit” to learn about the rich history of poetry, while locals visit often to buy books and attend events.
Elsa Dorfmann took a wide collection of the photographs of poets that are hanging on the walls of the Grolier, are of great interest to our guests.
The Harvard Square Business Association recently presented the Grolier Poetry Book Shop with the Cornerstone Award for significant cultural and historical contributions to Harvard Square.
David Ferry, Reading at the Grolier, February 19, 2018
photo credit, Olivia Huang
From the time I first came into Cambridge, a new graduate student at Harvard, and maybe just starting to write any poems but already enslaved by Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost, the Grolier was a magic place. The pictures on its walls of poets who had been there, and might be there at any moment; the kind conversations with Gordon Cairnie, the suddenly seeing Conrad Aiken come into the shop and knowing of his friendship with Eliot and knowing his tragic story with its wonderful title, "Silent Snow Secretly Snow", and me unable to forget the poise and dignity of the versification of his beautiful elegiac poem beginning “Music I heard with you was more than music." And back then I only knew of one other place like this, the Gotham Book Store in New York, and both places seemed to me like the center of, for me, a newly knowable magic world. These places were legends and legendary, and the great thing for me was that in the case of the Grolier, I could be there, almost any day, in the center of its world.