Do gays have a special affinity for libraries? Yes, if we are to believe poet Greg Hewett. He spoke March 27 at Quatrefoil Library, which recently moved its LGBT holdings from St. Paul to a new spot in a senior housing project on Lake St. and 13th Av. S. in Minneapolis.
In a writers-in-residence program sponsored by his publisher, Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press, Hewett was "embedded" at Quatrefoil, where he spent about a week reading, talking to patrons, and getting to know the collection.
His talk at the library drew a full house.
Hewett, raised in Ithaca, N.Y., has lived in the Twin Cities for 20 years. He is a associate professor of English at Carleton College in Northfield. His books of poetry include "Darkacre," 'The Eros Conspiracy" and "Red Suburb."
Hewett said he treasured trips to the library as boy, and recalled that he once stole a book about gay authors through history, as he was too nervous to check it out age 15. (He more recently returned it, told the story, and was given a pardon on the overdue fine.)
One thing that impressed him about Quatrefoil were its historic holdings, including publications of the 1950s gay group, the Mattachine Society.
Hewett said a collection in which all the materials were gay-themed was like a symphony, as opposed to the "solos" of LGBT books scattered among the holdings of a bigger, mainstream library.
Hewett had asked some audience members to write brief statements about books they had read from Quatrefoil's collection. One man praised "The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's," Ricardo J. Brown's memoir of being gay in St. Paul in the 1940s. Other books that came up for praise were Alan Hollinghurst's novel "The Line of Beauty" and a collection of short memoirs by gay men who grew up in the rural Midwest, called "Farm Boys."
Hewett said his Quatrefoil residency led him to re-commit to a project that he hopes to complete this summer, rewriting an old, never-published novel.
Chris Fischbach of Coffee House said other writer-libary pairings in the program have included Lightsey Darst at Walker Art Center's library and Ed Bok Lee at a small library at the American Swedish Institute.
Quatrefoil Library, co-founded by Dick Hewetson and the late David Irwin, opened in 1986. It has more than 14,000 books in its collection, plus other materials. Those with memberships may borrow materials, excluding rare books and periodicals. It is located at 1220 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.