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Poet Killed By Roommate Remembered at Reading Room She Helped Found

By Gwynne Hogan | October 3, 2016 2:56pm
 Carolyn Bush, 25, helped found Wendy's Subway a non-profit reading room and library in East Williamsburg.
Carolyn Bush, 25, helped found Wendy's Subway a non-profit reading room and library in East Williamsburg.
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Facebook/Dnainfo/Gwynne Hogan

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — Friends crammed into a Bushwick Avenue reading room Sunday night to share memories about the book-loving poet who police said was murdered by her roommate last week.

Carolyn Bush, 25, who police and prosecutors said was stabbed to death by enraged roommate Render Stetson-Shanahan, 26, in their Ridgewood home on Wednesday night, helped found Wendy's Subway, a nonprofit library, writing space and reading room in East Williamsburg at 379 Bushwick Ave.

"Every book is a book she helped bring. Everything here is something Carolyn touched. She slept on this couch. This was her house." said Kevin Cassem, 26, another co-founder who helped get Wendy's started in 2014. "This place wouldn't exist without her."

Gabe Kruis, 31 — who'd been there in the early days of the reading library, when it was located in a loft building on Metropolitan Avenue above an umbrella factory — remembered drinking whiskey with Bush while they fixed up the space by hand.

"We'd be doing construction and drinking Four Roses and it was not really work," said Kruis. "She had this kind of beautiful incredulity to things that were bulls---."

And he added, extending a bottle of Four Roses to the crowd, "if you feel like the bulls--- of this is getting you down."

Bush moved to New York City in 2012, from Bard College upstate where she'd been studying literature, though she didn't graduate, according to friends and the college. For around two years she worked at McNally Jackson Independent Booksellers in SoHo.

"After the holidays they'd put her back in the café and she was really pissed off, because she loved books," said Sarah Gerard, 31, who met Bush while working at McNally Jackson, adding that some of Bush's favorite authors were Simone Weil, a French feminist mystic and philosopher, and Mina Loy, a British novelist and playwright.

The two soon figured out that they grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and had many mutual friends, even dating the same man. They'd bonded over that connection, Gerard said.

"There's this certain grittiness to St. Petersburg. [It's] kind of rebellious, gutter punky."

Bush had gone back to school in 2015, enrolling in an undergraduate program at the New School in 2015, the college said. She was studying literary theory, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up by friends to help her family pay for her burial.

In the packed vigil Sunday night, friends took turns sharing memories of Bush, reading aloud her poetry, her sarcastic text messages or her telling Facebook posts, as well as their own writing inspired by Bush's sudden death.

They recalled her love of astrology, medicinal herbs, tarot and occult literature.

Another member of Wendy's Subway Chris Prioleau, 29, remembered hanging out with Bush recently after she'd gotten a book of family history from a relative. The book had generations of birth and death certificates and lists of family members and their occupation. Flipping through the book, they saw one of her ancestors had been a famous Irish composer. The two found one of his works on Spotify and listened to a song. 

"We listened to it and we were real quiet. At the end of it she was like, 'That f---ing sucked,'" and the two finished in hysterics, Prioleau said. 

Those gathered Sunday night wavered between laughter and tears, many still struggling to come to grips with the sudden, violent nature of Bush's death.

"I feel so alarmed at how easy it is to not make time and space for the types of people that are so obviously wonderful," said Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves, 36. "How frightening it is that we can lose each other. It's so easy to lose each other."

Stetson-Shanahan, who also studied at Bard College and graduated in 2012 as a literature major, was being held at Rikers Island and is due back in court on Oct. 17, court record show.