“Many people have claimed that literature can change lives. But few individuals lived and experienced life more committed to this belief than Karl Pohrt. He not only believed that literature provided the opportunity to inhabit and experience the lives of others—thereby more deeply understanding the human condition—but he also believed that in doing so writing and reading became transformative, political acts. For there is no greater agent for peace and understanding than reading the literatures of others.”
– Jeremy Chamberlin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher Fiction Writers Review
For nearly 30 years, Karl Pohrt owned and operated Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This lovely bookshop served the academic and literary community of the University of Michigan, but also helped to bring access of scholarly works to the greater public. His love and knowledge of literature was immense, as was his love of bookselling and putting a beautifully written book into the hands of a reader. Karl was a true believer in both the material and spiritual power of sharing ideas via the written word and used his store for this purpose.
More than just a bookseller, Karl was deeply involved as an activist, working tirelessly with the local Downtown Development Authority, the university, and retailing and business groups as a pioneer in what is now know as the “local first” movement. Karl was an active member of the Independent Booksellers Consortium and served for several years on the American Booksellers Association Board of Directors, having a significant impact on booksellers and bookstore owners in these capacities.
Karl passed away in July of 2013 after battling a rare thyroid cancer. His absence continues to be strongly felt throughout the bookselling community. Binc Board member, and HarperCollins sales rep, Kate McCune remembered, “The store meant so much to our community—but it was only part of Karl’s story. He read, he wrote, he traveled—both to help out where help was needed in the world and to learn about the world. This scholarship in his name is a worthy tribute to a man who understood that knowledge is a journey on the path to becoming our best selves and citizens of the world.”
The Binc Foundation honors Karl’s life and dedication to bookselling with a new Tribute Scholarship for $5,000 supported by Karl’s family. This scholarship will be awarded to a candidate who has overcome learning adversity or is a non-traditional student. “We are honored to be able to acknowledge Karl’s contributions to the book industry through this scholarship,” said Binc Executive Director Pam French. “We feel especially fortunate to be able to honor someone who gave back so much to the local Ann Arbor community.”
The Karl Pohrt Tribute Scholarship is one of many awards offered through the Binc Foundation Scholarship Program. Applications are being accepted until Friday, February 27th. If you are a bookseller, or a dependent of a bookseller, apply today. https://scholarsapply.org/binc
Binc would like to thank Jeremy Chamberlin, Kate McCune and Binc board president Lori Tucker-Sullivan for their contributions to this post.