Kovarik Poetry Room
The Henry P. Kovarik Poetry Room, located in the Adult Department at the library, was established in 1989 when the new building was constructed. Mr. Kovarik created the Henry P. Kovarik Poetry Foundation to further interest in a craft he loved. Through his generous bequest, poetry is promoted at the library through readings, and workshops. Poetry books, films and periodicals are made available through the library collections. A selection of poems by Henry P. Kovarik can be found here.
A Tribute to Henry P. Kovarik
by Karen Mouzakes, foundation trustee
June 11, 1995
Henry P. Kovarik was born at the turn of the century in Moravia in Europe. He was in the Moravian Army during W.W.I. as a very, very young man. He immigrated to the United States after the war. Through the years he worked as an elevator operator, a chauffeur, a night watchman, and a real estate salesman. He never married. In 1945, he moved to Yaphank with his mother and a very heavy accent which remained with him throughout his lifetime.
I first met Henry in 1972. He was already an old man. He drove a burnt orange compact car, was always impeccably dressed in a shirt, tie, sports jacket, and suspenders. He always wore a hat and in 1972 he carried a cane. He was courteous, friendly, and always smiling.
I really got to know Henry when those of us who owned old houses along Main Street in Yaphank, as Henry and I did, met to form The Yaphank Historical Society. I was the Society`s secretary- he was a trustee. Our common interest was Yaphank`s past. Henry Kovarik loved Yaphank.
I remember when Henry first invited me to his home on East Main Street. He met me at the street and walked me down an overgrown driveway. As we walked his seven acre property, he hummed and told me the he was never lonely there because he felt so close to nature. At his home in Yaphank he had his poems, his flowers, and his woods. He described himself as a Naturalist Poet. He told me, "The secrecy of nature`s face to poet`s soul is of occults for features, to write them in poems verily. That is do not dare, the nature`s face to misplace! By wandering in my mind, poems, to write." He then sat with me on an old wooden bench so we could contemplate our surroundings together.
Once inside the house, I was taken with his den. All four walls were covered with magazines and newspaper pictures which were neatly cut and mounted making a collage of images. As I took closer look, I saw bits of poetry written by Henry and affixed to many of the pictures. He told me that he did this because there was truth in pictures, and that he enjoyed looking at them and writing about the human condition.
In his den, there was also a large roll top desk and a smaller desk placed between two windows. A huge safe stood beside the roll top with a tremendous dictionary on its top. The safe door always remained open. Inside Henry kept all of his valuables: his poetry. There were also barrister bookcases topped with the biggest birds nests I`d ever seen. He explained that he gathered them at the end of each summer and brought them to his den to admire their fine construction over the coming winter months.
Henry wrote his poetry early each morning while sitting in a lounge chair in his glassed-in porch. The porch overlooked his wooden bench, the high grass, and the day lilies that he loved so much.
It was on another of my many visits to Henry`s house that he asked if I would type some of his poems. He explained that he could not type and he needed me to do this for him. He said that others had typed his poems in the past- but that they always tried to help him by putting his poetry into proper English. He said that his poetry was lost in these translations. He instructed me to type his poems just as he wrote them.
Each week Henry would walk down Main Street to my home with one or two poems. They were about nature, patriotism, and sometimes about people and events happening around town. He waited as I typed them and he later took them to the library to photocopy them. He spoke often of Mrs. Goetz who was then the children`s librarian. She was always kind to Henry. He told me that the library was staffed with good people who always offered him encouragement.
In the late 1970`s Henry began wishing for a poetical Society. He had many friends, but what he longed for was a place where writers could share their work. He once read me a quote by Professor L. Rosenthal of New York University that said "...How little attention is paid to the development of a Poetical Society or a foundation to be set up so that poets would not be ignored.
One day he called to tell me to come quickly, I had to sign papers. I was to be one of three trustees, along with his lawyer and his friend Eugene Dooley. The Henry P. Kovarik Foundation for Poetry had become a reality. Every time we met he spoke of his Foundation. It would be funded by monies from his estate after his death. He was definite on these points:
Firstly, there must be a place for writers and poets to meet. (He would have liked his home preserved for this, but if the house had to be sold to provide enough foundation money that would be okay with him.) We should work this out for him. He knew we would.
Secondly, poets must be encouraged and not ignored. We must think of a way. He knew we would.
Finally, he, Henry P. Kovarik must be remembered as a Naturalist Poet. Preferably "The Poet Laureate of Yaphank". We must do this. He knew that we`d think of a way.
In the early 1980`s, Henry became frail. He asked if the Historical Society Board Meetings, that were usually held at my house, could be held at his house so he would not have to venture out at night. Henry delighted in these meetings. Instead of the cake and coffee I used to serve- he served wine and cheese. If anything controversial arose at the meeting he abstained- after all, he reasoned, we all would know what to do - and he didn`t want to offend any friends by voting any particular way!
In the fall of 1983, Henry quietly passed away at home in Yaphank. After his estate was settled and his house was sold, we tried to think of the best way to carry out Henry`s wishes. The new Longwood Public Library was being built. Remembering Henry`s fondness for the library and its staff, we asked the Library Board if we could establish a room here in his name. Foundation money paid for the creation of the Henry P. Kovarik Room here at the library. Each year the Henry P. Kovarik Foundation contributes $4,000 to be used here for books, tapes, and programs. To encourage young poets, the Foundation awards two $1,000 Henry P. Kovarik Scholarships. They are awarded to Longwood High School graduates going to college who have exhibited a strong interest in poetry and writing as a career.
When Suzanne called and asked me to speak today, she told me that you were meeting to share your works and that you wished for someone to say a few words in remembrance of Henry. This has made me most happy. All of Henry`s wishes have finally come to fruition. Writers are coming together to share their works and to be encouraged by each other. Henry P. Kovarik is also being remembered for his love of poetry. Surely, Henry is most happy!
Written on the occasion of the Henry P. Kovarik Memorial Reading
June 11, 1995
by members of the Taproot Workshops held at the library.