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Hamptons Life

Feb 23, 2010 2:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

New proposal to convert former horse barn into a poetry center

Feb 23, 2010 2:21 PM

Tucked and stuffed into a long-term storage room is a chunk of history. Smiling faces captured on color film, recitation of verses on VHS tapes, and, mostly, pages upon pages of poetry.

For years, Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan has been the vessel into which the history of poetry on Long Island has been poured. The growing collection of poetry books, historical artifacts, recordings of poetry readings and more captures the history of poetry on Long Island. It’s also the heart of a permanent repository for it all, the Poetry Place.

The problem is that no such place exists yet.

On Tuesday, March 2, Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan will make a bid at a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature to rent a vacant horse stable owned by Suffolk County to adapt for her purposes. She’s hoping supporters will turn out to support her efforts to create a poetry archive and arts center in Flanders. The meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the County Center in Riverhead.

“No one is saying no, but no one is saying yes either,” Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan said. “I hope that by appealing to the legislature directly, we’ll be able to move forward with the plan for the poetry center.”

The former public stable is on Route 24 alongside the Sears Bellows County Park in Flanders. The facility closed after the Big Duck was trucked down the street in 2007.

Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan noticed the empty horse barn recently while driving to her weekly cable program, the NSPS Arts Forum TV Show, broadcast from Riverhead. A published poet with numerous poetry collections to her credit, Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan is the Suffolk County Poet Laureate. She is also the founder and head of the North Sea Poetry Scene (NSPS).

As determined as the North Sea woman was to ignite a passion for poetry on the East End, she’s now equally determined to find a permanent home for the historic record of poetry on Long Island. Her quest to find a permanent home has taken her across the East End.

Possible sites or collaborations have been explored with the Village of Southampton, the Southampton Cultural Center, the Southampton Historical Museum, Southampton Town, and the Parrish Art Museum, along with potential sites in Riverhead, Patchogue and others.

Universities and colleges on Long Island have expressed interest in acquiring the collection for their institutions but Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan has rejected their offers, mostly because her vision of the NSPS archive and art center hinges on ample access for the public.

“I don’t want the collection to be locked up in a room where people can’t access it,” Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan said. “The materials should be accessible to anyone who wants to see it.”

Inquiries into possible plans for the former Suffolk County riding stable have yielded nebulous answers, Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan said. On Tuesday, she hopes her plea before the Suffolk County Legislature will generate some interest and allow a serious dialogue to begin.

Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan is not currently on the legislature agenda, but will request to be added as a speaker. Specifically, she hopes to win support for prior requests to lease the building for $1 per year for 30 years. In return, NSPS will invest around $200,000 to upgrade the building and transform it into a public poetry hub, arts center and archive. A business plan will be submitted along with the letters of support gathered.

Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan is asking people to attend the legislature session to show their support. She’ll be collecting supporting letters until a go-ahead is received.

Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan sees a Long Island Poetry Archival/Arts Center as a place where the works of Long Island poets could be read or researched. Poetry readings, book signings and other literary and cultural events would be supplemented by tours, educational seminars and ecology projects that could also be part of the mix, Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan said.

So far, thousands of books, chapbooks and poetry-related items have been gathered, along with hundreds of anthologies. Included are collections published by Southampton College, the Modern Poetry Association, the Foundation of Cultural Projects, Birnham Wood Graphics, the Poetry Center, the Long Island Poetry Collective and many others. Poetry books by David Ignatow, Siv Cedering, David B. Axelrod, Ray Freed, Graham Everett, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Koch and hundreds more are part of the collection.

The oldest item dates to 1870. Many others are dated to the 1970s. Poet Vince Clemente donated a printer’s copy of one of his books. A rare chapbook by William Heyen with a lime green cover is another gem of the collection, said Ms. Nuzzo-Morgan. So is a poster signed by Dylan Thomas’s daughter and an oversize book of anti-war poems that measures 3 feet by 2 feet.

Stacks of towering poetry books outgrew the available space in her North Sea home around two years ago. Since then, the devoted poet plunks down the monthly rent for a climate controlled space to safely store donations for the Poetry Place.

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Ms. Buzzo-Morgan's goals are commendable, but an equestrian facility is not an appropriate site for this activity. I urge LI's equestrian community, along with other recreational users of Suffolk County parkland to oppose this proposal.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Feb 28, 10 8:51 AM
The Equestrian facility is not being used, has not been used since 2007. Should it just sit there and go to ruin?
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Mar 3, 10 9:33 AM
Look around the Hamptons. Some of the most beautiful studios and galleries are housed in barns. Tammy has a way of making good things happen. She has my complete confidence.
By Jac (2), East Quogue on Feb 28, 10 11:42 AM
What a wonderful idea, to renovate a run-down barn into a center for arts, education and relaxation. This will be an asset to the community, and beautify the park, as well. The fewer abandoned buildings, the better.
By Barb M (1), Ronkonkoma on Feb 28, 10 3:59 PM
A good central location, a perfect site for a poets haven and a long time overdue to happen. There are and have been so many talented poets on our island. Their work deserves recognition.
Maybe there can be a special section just for poems about horses to keep the horse people happy.
By poets love horses (1), mastic beach on Mar 1, 10 5:39 PM