Big interview! New book store next to Henry’s home in Brooklyn!

This is really a big deal!  A big scoop.  Alert the Pulitzer committee!!

Black Spring Books recently opened its doors.  We know what you’re thinking, and yes, they named the store after Henry’s book. But there’s more!

The store is located next door to Henry’s childhood home at 662 Driggs Avenue in Brooklyn.

To celebrate this amazing occasion, we spoke with Black Spring Books’ founder Simona Blat for an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW.

Simona is a Russian-American poet, writer, editor, and teacher. She was born in Riga, Latvia, and emigrated to Brooklyn in 1990. She currently serves as Poetry Editor at Epiphany Magazine, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Brazenhead Review, and teaches writing at New York University.

Hi Simona! So…what was the genesis for Black Spring Books?  What’s the “creation story?!?!”

The general desire to open a bookshop has been a latent dream for a very long time, but Black Spring Books is really a result of the perfect conditions appearing at the right time. The pandemic has unfortunately shuttered a lot of wonderful businesses in NYC, but it also created a chance for new ventures. When I found the space, located next to Henry Miller’s childhood home, it felt serendipitous.

I never thought I’d be opening a bookstore in the middle of a social lock-down, but it felt like a the most meaningful thing I could do. I realized I wanted to honor the history of the neighborhood, where I have also been living for a decade, in a city where I grew up. To be honest, I was surprised that there wasn’t even a plaque on the building! I think its up to us, the future generations, to continue the tradition of those we’ve admired and lost. 

What’s your favorite Miller book?

A male writer recently said to me that they didn’t know any women who liked Henry Miller, and I said, “The women I know do!” They all have their merits, but the one that I return to the most is “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird.”

It really speaks to the artist, the dreamer, and the explorer in me. In fact, a bird flew into the shop the first week we were open, and though it might not have been a hummingbird, it felt like a significant visitation!

What does Miller mean to you?

I think of Miller as a kind of grounded philosopher. He’s here in the trenches with us, he’s getting dirty, he’s really paying attention, and he wants to show the ugly parts and the beautiful parts, and how they are completely intertwined. I feel like I am living when I read him. I admire anyone who lives (and writes) irreverently.

Did you attend the Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge [the HML’s week-long Miller celebration in 2013]?  Any thoughts on Miller’s relationship to Brooklyn?

Sadly I missed that event, but there should be more like it! It’s an incredible bit of literary history, and Henry Miller contributed a lot to the impressions of not only life as a writer of a certain milieu but also early artistic life in Brooklyn. People want to believe that artists moved to Brooklyn when they got priced out of Manhattan, but there were artists here all the time. Miller’s recollections of Brooklyn are more rich than some historical records. Unique and even biased perhaps but definitely more entertaining!

He’s written about parts of Brooklyn with so much disdain, yet these memories haunted him, and shaped him, and stayed with him throughout his life. He wrote about Brooklyn and Paris, so I guess he made that connection before everyone else did.

Thanks Simona!!!

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