August 24th, 1940 – June 16th, 2019
We are very sad to announce that our dear friend and treasured member, Ifeany Menkiti, owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Store, passed away on Sunday night at home. He was surrounded by his beloved family.
We send prayers for our dear friend, his grieving family, and all those whose lives he touched with his great spirit.
Professor Menikiti was a poet, philosopher, teacher and gentleman. Harvard Square lost a treasured friend. He will be truly missed.
Menkiti has always loved poetry. While an undergraduate at Pomona College in California, he wrote a Bachelor’s thesis on the poetry of Ezra Pound and that thesis received the college’s F.S. Jennings Distinguished Senior Thesis Award. Needless to say, the award encouraged my future journey in poetry. Following Pomona, he came east to New York and then to Cambridge, Massachusetts to do graduate work in philosophy at Harvard studying with Professor John Rawls, his dissertation adviser and mentor.
He has now owned the Grolier for four years. Menkiti says for him, the book store is a labor of love. People come from all over the world to this little haven in the midst of Harvard Square, seeking poetry and the companionship of poets. Since its founding in 1927, the Grolier has had only three owners–Gordon Cairnie, Louisa Solano, and Menkiti. His hope is that the store and its proud tradition will continue into the next century, and beyond.
Of the poets who have visited or established a strong relationship with the book shop over the years, including e.e. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Conrad Aiken, T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Mary Oliver, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Donald Hall, Robert Creeley. I find it hard to imagine that the spirit of these writers will allow such a thing. How can we live without poetry shared by word of mouth, in a physical setting, eye turned to page, voice received by ear, and a community of persons taking it all in, and at the end singing: this is as it should be.
As prepared by:
Gavin W. Kleespies, Executive Director Cambridge Historical Society.
Katie MacDonald, Intern Cambridge Historical Society.