“This is something!” Don Share proclaims, rising out of his seat and bustling over to the shelves by his desk. He picks up a can it looks like a soup can, or ’60s Warholian facsimile thereof, with its scripted red C. “The first magazine in a can,” is written on the front. On the back, above the 1965 copyright symbol: “Instructions: open can slowly (lovingly) . . . ”
Lovingly is how Share talks about poetry, sitting in his office off the Houghton Library’s Woodberry Poetry Room (located, with poetic logic, in Lamont Library). The room, envisioned in the 19th century by G.E. Woodberry, Class of 1877, built in 1939 at Widener, moved in ’49 to Lamont, is a living sanctuary of the written word, and poet, translator, literary editor Share is its curator (from the Latin curare: to care for).
The can of poetry, along with Amy Lowell’s cigar and the dated, signed lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” are some of the more whimsical artifacts in the Woodberry Room’s vast collection of books, records, audio and videotapes, manuscripts, and photographs. “The room is a place for poetry at Harvard,” says Share, roaming with pleasure around the subtly lit, intimate space with its low, sleek, light-colored wood furniture and its ingeniously designed listening stations, “It’s where people can gather to listen to and talk about contemporary poetry, but it’s also a place of preservation and tradition.” A place to record new poets and listen to old poets.
And listening’s the thing, Share asserts, recalling one of the first days of his new job, “A woman came in and said, ‘I want to hear Eudora Welty’s voice.’ So we set her up.” As the woman sat quietly listening to the wise, ironic, Southern cadence, “her face changed,” remembers Share. She sat, “entranced,” in the Poetry Room the whole morning. As Share leans forward and describes the visit, he seems almost entranced himself from the Latin curare: to care for.
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