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Louisa Solano Papers, 1956-2013

Identifier: 031

Collection Overview

This collection contains printed material, correspondence, broadsides, photographs, and VHS and DVDs of poetry readings that represent the history of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop under Louisa Solano’s ownership. Of interest are the series of folders titled “Envelopes” (under Correspondence in Series 1: Subject Files, 1973-2013) in which poets sent their latest releases to Solano with notes. The Grolier Poetry Prize program brochures (Series 1: Subject Files, 1973-2013) list the year’s winner with the poems printed often for the first time.

The collection also contains limited editions published by small, independent presses and signed trade copies that represent Cambridge’s poetry community during the latter half of the 20th Century. The author dedications show the poetry community’s praise for Solano’s support. Of interest to Cambridge history is the poem “Line Transmitter Installation – A Poem in the Environment” by Mark Mendel is published with photographs of Cambridge. Mendel’s publication is in Series 3: Independent Press Limited Editions, 1956-2012.

Below are listings of Cambridge poets as well as Cambridge (and other significant local) independent presses both of which are well represented in the collection. Please note this is not an exhaustive list.

Cambridge Poets: Kathleen Aguero, Catherine Anderson, Erin Belieu, Frank Bidart, Jessica Bozek, Julia Budenz, Elsa Dorfman, David Daniel, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Norma Farber, Richard Fein, David Ferry, Kinereth Gensler, Celia Gilbert, John Hildebidle, Richard Hoffman, Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Cate Marvin (taught at Lesley University), Gail Mazur, Ifeayni Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, John Pijewski, Robert Pinsky, Deborah M. Priestly, David Rivard, Martin Robins (taught at Lesley University), Peter Sacks, May Sarton, Catherine Sasanov, Sue Standing, and Stephen Tapscott.

Cambridge Independent Presses: Agni Review published the Falcon (located in Cambridge, Mass in 1979), Alice James Books, Arion’s Dolphin, Baka Press, Blacksmith Press, Dolphin Editions, Dromenon Press, Every Other Thursday Press, Faux Press, Ferguson Press, Flying Hippo & the Pallid Peacock Press, Grolier Poetry Press, Halty Ferguson Press, Identity Poetry, Imaginary Press, Pomegranate Press, Riverside Press, and Zoland Books.

Also represented in the collection are Somerville Independent Presses, including the following: Červená Barva, Ibbetson Street Press, Life Magazine, and Zephyr Press.


  • 1956-2013


Access to Collection

This collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

The material in this collection is subject to copyright and intellectual property restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Researchers must obtain written permission from the copyright holder(s) if they wish to publish materials from this collection. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.


Louisa Solano was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1941. She grew up in Cambridge, attending Agassiz Grammar School and Cambridge High and Latin school, from which she graduated in 1959. The daughter of Harvard professor Louis Solano, Louisa Solano has been a life-long devotee of literature. As a teenager, she worked at the Cambridge Public Library, and from there discovered the Grolier Book Shop. After that first visit, she returned to the shop regularly, eventually completing odd jobs there. Solano earned her bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 1966 and went on to work in the antiquarian Goodspeed’s Book Shop. In 1974, Solano took over the ownership of the Grolier after the death of its founder and owner, Gordon Cairnie.

The Grolier Poetry Book Shop, founded in 1927, is the oldest continuously run bookstore devoted to selling poetry and poetry criticism. Founded by Gordon Cairnie and Adrian Gambit as the Grolier Book Shop, it was originally a first editions bookstore. When Louisa Solano purchased the store, she decided to focus on poetry and changed its name to the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. Solano aimed to make the atmosphere of the store less elitist and to attract a more diverse clientele by stocking a wider range of works. The store had not made money under Cairnie, who was able to support it via a trust fund, but Solano sought to make it a sustainable business. Under Solano’s ownership, the Grolier sponsored an annual, national poetry contest, the Grolier Poetry Prize, launching the careers of new poets. During her tenure, Solano also founded a popular reading series at Harvard University’s Adams House. Solano’s knowledge of poetry and her philosophy of stocking the shelves with difficult-to-find publications and small, avant-garde presses made the Grolier a destination for established and emerging poets, and lovers of literature.

Louisa Solano ran the Grolier until 2006, when she felt compelled to sell it due to health concerns and financial difficulties. Ifeanyi Menkiti, a Wellesley College philosophy professor, purchased the store. On November, 19, 2007, the City of Cambridge honored Solano’s work by naming the corner of Bow and Plympton Streets Louisa Solano Square.


9 Linear Feet

6.6 Cubic Feet

15 boxes (2 Hollinger boxes and 13 oversize boxes.)

630 Items

Language of Materials


Organization of Collection

Approximately 630 items in 4 series.

Series 1: Subject Files, 1973-2013, arranged alphabetically.

Series 2: Audiovisual Materials, 1986-2000, arranged alphabetically by featured poet.

Series 3: Independent Press Limited Editions, 1956-2012, arranged alphabetically by author.

Series 4: Signed Trade Copies, 1964-2009, arranged alphabetically by author.

Custodial History

Collection was donated by Louisa Solano throughout 2012 and 2013.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Alyssa Pacy in August and September 2013 and by Lillian Weitzman, who was also the EAD author, in July 2016 (under the supervision of Alyssa Pacy).



Finding Aid to the Louisa Solano Papers, 1956-2013 031
Alyssa Pacy (September 2013) and Lillian Weitzman (July 2016)
2013 and 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
Cambridge MA 02138 USA