updated 05/16/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/16/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Carroll, who was graduated from Columbia University last year, got the idea when he read about a lecture the Russian-born Brodsky, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, gave in Washington in 1991. At the very least, Brodsky declaimed, "an anthology of American poetry should be found in the drawer in every room in every motel in the land." "It was a lightning-bolt kind of thing," says Carroll, who approached the writer about the project and became its unsalaried executive director. He used an anonymous $5,000 donation to buy the first books. Then he began approaching hotel managers, one of whom asked, "Who is this Robert Frost guy you're working for?"
Undismayed, Carroll continues lo regard a volume of verse as the perfect balm for a weary traveler—even better than Magic Fingers. "We all rush through life," he says. "Poems are stop signs that say, 'Wait, take a look at this.' "