Congratulations!

June 14, 2017

Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The Poetry Department extends congratulations to Tracy K. Smith, who has been named the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, for 2017-2018. Smith will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library of Congress annual literary season in September with a reading of her work at the Coolidge Auditorium.

Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor at Princeton University, succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate. She joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Herrera, Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

Tracy Smith is the author of three books of poetry, including Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Duende (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction and selected as a notable book by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

For her poetry, Smith has received a Rona Jaffe Writers Award and a Whiting Award. In 2014, the Academy of American Poets awarded her with the Academy Fellowship, given to one poet each year to recognize distinguished poetic achievement. In 2015, she won the 16th annual Robert Creeley Award and in 2016 was awarded Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence.

In the Pulitzer Prize citation for Life on Mars, judges lauded its “bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain.” Toi Derricotte, poet and Academy of American Poets chancellor, said “the surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of an unknown vastness. Her poems take the risk of inviting us to imagine, as the poet does, what it is to travel in another person’s shoes.”

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Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

inaugural poetry

January 20, 2017

rare flag

Poetry will not be part of today’s inauguration ceremonies, but you can learn more about Poetry and the Presidential Inauguration on the Library of Congress website. And, of course, you can bring your own, or your favorite, poetry to the day, whatever your plans may be.

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extremely rare 1836-37 U.S. flag from Arkansas

the joy of listening

July 18, 2016

ear budsWe occasionally mention the pleasures of listening to recorded poetry (for example, here and here and here). If you question the benefit of listening, or need a reminder of the particular benefit of hearing authors read their own work, take a quick look at Wyatt Mason’s New York Times article, “Letter of Recommendation: Audiobooks Read by the Author.

If you’re looking for audio, here are a few resources (in addition to those in the posts linked above):

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image by Berthold Werner

page by page

May 31, 2016

Walt Whitman - Earliest and most important notebook

Among the treasures held by the Library of Congress, the Thomas B. Harned collection of Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) papers offers an unguarded glance into the poet’s process. According to the notes by Alice L. Birney that introduce the collection, the notebooks “feature personal philosophy, poetry trial lines, notes on Civil War scenes, notations on needs of wounded soldiers in Washington hospitals, names and addresses.”

There’s a bit of mystery around the collection that sounds like a poetry prompt in itself. Harned was one of Whitman’s three literary executors. He donated some 3,000 items to the Library in 1918. After “a 1942 wartime evacuation of treasures” (to repositories in Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia, among other places) ten of the Whitman notebooks in the Harned collection “went missing.” Four of them were returned in 1995 after they were brought to Sotheby’s for evaluation. Six are still missing. Read the story here.

While Whitman’s notebooks have been transcribed into various books, the LOC collection allows the viewer to browse each one page by page, seeing, for example, the earliest drafts of lines from “Song of Myself” in Whitman’s hand. There are some 98,000 items in the LOC Whitman collection. View Recovered Notebooks from the Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection here.
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image

listen

April 27, 2015

Victor Perard - Anatomy

If you enjoy hearing poetry well read, listen up.

The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress contains some two thousand items, which are gradually being made available online.

From the Fishouse a “free online audio archive showcases emerging poets (defined for this purpose as poets with fewer than two published books of poetry at the time of submission) reading their own poems, as well as answering questions about poetry and the writing process.”

The Poetry Streamer is The Cortland Review’s radio station of poetry. It streams all the publication’s poetry recordings from the past 15 years in random order.

Book Riot has posted a video collection of “10 More Famous Poems Recited by Famous People.”
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image from Anatomy and Drawing by Victor Perard, 1928

new Poet Laureate

June 12, 2014

Charles WrightLibrarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced the appointment of Charles Wright as the Library’s 20th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2014-2015.

Among his many credits, Wright is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the 2013 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous other awards. His most recent poetry collection is Caribou (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014). He is a professor of creative writing in the English Department at the University of Virginia.

Read the press release from the Library of Congress. Read Wright’s poem “Across the Creek Is the Other Side of the River” in the Washington Post.
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Photo: Dan Addison

memory aid

June 9, 2014

Finding Poems

This post has nothing to do with found poetry but instead highlights a resource for those times when poems come to mind in windblown fragments.

Whether you recall a string of words or merely a metaphor, the Library of Congress offers an extensive list of suggestions beyond (and including) your friendly search engine. Each of the links on Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes leads to expanded articles and more resources. This might be worth adding to your bookmarks.

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