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February 24, 2008

PUBLISHING: Kenmore native is a poet and entrepreneur

KENMORE — If you’re a poet, you have to be observant.

There are observations galore when 38 year-old Kenmore poet, publisher and literary entrepreneur Geoffrey Gatza begins talking. He operates what is known as a “literary press” dubbed BlazeVox Books, which has a mission of publishing local poets, including his own work, and broadcasting to the world that the Buffalo area is rife with talent.

“Buffalo, it’s one of the best cities for poetry,” he says of the region’s thriving literary culture. His publishing enterprise, which takes great advantage of the Internet, modern print-on-demand technology and the sales power of Amazon.com, has made 70 books available since 2001. There are also two BlazeVox Web sites offering made-in-Buffalo poetry for sale, with a section called “Mobilis in mobili” (from Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, “moving in a moving thing”), the equivalent of a free literary download.

The rarefied world of modern poetry has taken notice of Gatza’s radical methods for putting poems in the hands and minds of readers. He recently was awarded a grant from the respected national organization Fund for Poetry, and attended the Associated Writing Programs conference, a poetry publishing convention of sorts, in New York City.

How does a long-time Kenmore kid become a player in such an exotic milieu?

“I got the best education I could get,” he said of his upbringing. Gatza is a product of Kenmore’s Jane Addams School, Lindbergh School, Kenmore Middle School, and Kenmore West High School.

“I had terrific teachers,

wonderful teachers. One teacher wore Opium (perfume). I can smell it today. I still remember it, and I was 7 years old.”

This is a poet at work. In the space of a brief conversation, he can comment on the poetry business, make cogent observations about professional football, and quote chapter and verse of the Bible.

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