Contemporary Poetfan: Michael. A Mart
Together with my wife, Mary, I ran an antiquarian bookshop on Long Island, New York for 34 years. Everyday we were surrounded by the writings of our culture's great poets. But it was contemporary poetry that caught my attention, and contemporary poetry in the suburbs got very little attention. We did what we could to carry books of local poets, even though we were not a shop selling new books.
On occasion we had poetry readings in the confines of our shop. The poet Ai had a small business across the street from our bookshop in the 1970s and we always enjoyed talking with her about poetry and the difficulty of business ownership. Not all of the poets for whom we hosted readings had the public’s attention like Louis Simpson, one of our readers, but all were very good and grateful.
As space in the shop became even more limited by the increase in our book inventory we could not provide a suitable space for readings. But last year, with the expanded availability of broadband internet connection, I created an internet venue for contemporary poets: www.poetryvlog.com. This website presents a video of a different poet each week. My partner in this totally non-profit enterprise is Suffolk County's first Poet Laureate, George Wallace, well known by poets in this region and around the world. George has arranged for most of the 50+ poets who are featured on the website. Just by word of mouth the audience achieved for the poets on the site is nearing about 17,000 visitors per month; a number much greater than our bookshop could offer in its lifetime.
National Poetry Month is the month in which we began www.poetryvlog.com; now celebrating the appearance of its 52nd poet. Once on the site the poet remains, to be seen by viewers at will.
Michael. A Mart
St. James, New York