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In the coming weeks the Grolier Poetry Book Shop will be celebrating its 90th anniversary. This famed bookstore in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been in operation since 1927. It is an all poetry bookstore, and has seen the likes of Lowell, Eliot, Ginsberg, Hall and many other much-lauded poets grace its environs.

Olivia Huang, a young filmmaker from Guandong China, (a southeast coastal city), who now resides in Somerville, has produced and directed her first documentary titled Grolier Poetry Book Shop: The Last Sacred Place of Poetry.

I met Huang at my usual seat at the back of the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square. She is a serious young woman, and is unfailingly polite. She said she never had been to the Bloc, but was impressed my backroom hideaway, with its fireplace, its ancient bank vault, and well-appointed tables.

Huang has been in the states for the past four years. She recently received her advanced degree in Digital Media from Northeastern University.

Huang admits that she knows very little about poetry, but a friend of hers is a writer and she showed her an article about the best bookstores in Boston. The Grolier grabbed her attention. She was surprised by its long history, and its devotion to selling poetry books. She reflected, “It is amazing that such a small place can contain so much literary history.”

Huang had a number of talking heads in this 35-minute film, including the owners Ifeanyi and Carol Menkiti, Elizabeth Doran, the clerk/manager of the shop, poets like Ben Mazer, Gloria Mindock, Patrick Sylvain, Susan Barba (the Senior Editor of the New York Review of Books), yours truly and others.

Huang told me she researched the Grolier, and tried to get in touch with the former owner Louisa Solano, but due to health issues at the time she was not available. The film mostly deals with the current times of the Grolier, but Huang may do a follow up that will concentrate on its rich history.

Huang and co-director Alice Lin, have entered the documentary in the Barcelona Film Festival (it is a semi-finalist), the Los Angeles Cine Fest, the Red Corner Film Festival, and is hoping for a slot in the Boston Film Festival.

Huang told me she is a painter, and to judge from her portfolio, a very skillful one.

The film has so far been screened locally at Somerville Community Access TV, Cambridge Cable Access TV, and it is soon to be aired on Endicott College TV.

Huang told me the the most important thing she is trying to achieve in her work is telling a good and compelling story. And after viewing this story, I feel it undoubtedly will whet the viewers’ appetite for even more exploration.

Link to the 90th Anniversary Event: http://bostonlitdistrict.org/event/90th-anniversary-celebration-grolier-poetry-book-shop-musical-notes-90/.

Trailer for documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0Q3CnIzrH8.

 

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