Albuquerque will soon house the single largest collection of poetry in the U.S., if an Albuquerque-based poetry group’s plan works out.

The group, Speak Easy , is working to build a collection of poetry to be placed in a library the group will construct. Speak Easy Tangents co-founder Zachary Kluckman said all of the group’s founders are teachers who saw a need for educators to have greater access to poetry.

“The resources they have available to them are pretty small. It tends to be Robert Frost and Shel Silverstein and Emily Dickinson, and that’s about it,” Kluckman said.

“A lot of contemporary poetry, a lot of the stuff that happens, especially in spoken-word and slam, just isn’t available except through clips on YouTube. It’s just a limited resource and it’s hard for educators to compile together.”

The group is building the library to help teachers educate students, and help anyone who is interested to educate themselves, Kluckman said.

“Our thought process is if we put together a huge, huge library, then educators, as well as writers and youth poets, and anybody who just is interested can come in and find all this stuff under one roof without having to Google search for hours and hours and hours to find something appropriate,” he said.

Kluckman said the library will loan books and CDs for free for a couple days, just like a regular library, but it will also sell books and offer extended check-out of materials for a fee. He said the funding for the construction of the library will come from these sales as well as grant money.

“It’s going to be interesting,” he said. “We’re really kind of hoping to make it a community-funded effort. That’s one of the reasons we’ll have books and CDs for sale in the library.”

The group formed in late 2010 and held its first major event on Saturday, when Kluckman and Speak Easy Tangents’ other founders Katrina Guarascio and Jessica Helen Lopez held a book-release party, Kluckman said.

The group has already received some donations of poetry books and CDs through the mail from poets around the country, Kluckman said.

“Between the three of us, we know poets from all over the world in all styles. So we put a call-out to them first,” he said.

“While we’re touring and putting out our new books, we’re going to be asking for donations of books and CDs from local poets. So every state we hit, we’re going to do kind of a book drive.”

After the tour, the group will launch a series of “cultural-arts exchange programs” to collect new work for the library, Kluckman said. In the programs, Albuquerque poets will meet with poets from other big cities around the world and exchange work.

“The idea is that we give a bunch of books and CDs from
Albuquerque poets to them, to do whatever they want to do with them. Archive them, put them in poets’ houses, clubs or whatever, libraries, so that we’re spreading Albuquerque’s literary tradition out there to the world, too,” he said. “But in exchange, they’re giving us their stuff and we’re putting all of this under one roof in the library.”

Speak Easy Tangents will also work to bring youth and LGBT poets into the limelight.

“I’m always trying to bring both of those communities in because they really are underrepresented in the literary world,” Kluckman said. “I think that’s a shame because there are many communities out there with many, many talented writers and they don’t get any exposure.”

The group will first build its collection, then rent a storefront to house the collection and eventually construct a new building to serve as the permanent library. The plan is to rent the storefront within a year and start construction on the library as soon as the group’s funding allows.

The group hopes to forge a relationship with the public library system by the time it has a building constructed, Kluckman said.

“We’re trying to work as much as we can with the Albuquerque Public Library system,” he said. “We’re not sure what that structure looks like yet, but we’re trying to create a structure where we can work with them and be — I’m not sure of the right word — symbiotic, almost.”