(re)new(ed) interview series

October 22, 2018

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center has relaunched its poetry interview series with Anastasia Nikolis as interviewer. Previous interviewees in the series include Aracelis Girmay, Paisley Rekdal, Terrance Hayes, and Karen An-hwei Lee, among others. The first interview in the relaunched series features Joan Naviyuk Kane.

You can find links to each of the interviews on the LOC Interview Series page and you can read an editorial by Anastasia Nikolis explaining her intent for the renewed poetry series.

(You may also note that the Library of Congress has a new logo, above. Read about the Pentagram design.)

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take five

October 5, 2018

Got five minutes? Poet laureate Tracy K. Smith will fill your ears with poetry for five minutes, five days a week, starting in November when “The Slowdown” goes live.

The free podcast, produced by American Public Media in partnership with the Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation, will present Smith reading works by a wide array of poets from around the world.

Read more about the program, listen to a preview, or sign up now.

The Library of Congress has just launched a new poetry podcast series: From the Catbird Seat. Every Thursday for eight weeks, the series will explore poetry’s past, present and future.

Hosts Rob Casper, head of the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, and Anne Holmes, Digital Content Manager for the Poetry and Literature Center, will share archived recordings from nearly 80 years of literary events featuring poets reading and discussing their work at the Library of Congress. Each podcast will include highlights from a single event or series and will also feature a special guest. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith is the guest for the first program and Ron Charles, editor of The Washington Post’s Book World, is the guest for the second broadcast.

Listen and/or subscribe (it’s free) on the Library’s podcast site or on iTunes.

(catbird seat)

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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