Since 1937, the Librarian of Congress has periodically appointed a Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry who aims to raise the public’s appreciation for poetry.
Works by each of the 43 poets who have held the country’s top poetry position have been compiled in “The Poets Laureate Anthology,” a new volume published by the Library of Congress in cooperation with W.W. Norton. This groundbreaking work, full of some of the world’s best-known poems and many new surprises, charts the course of American poetry over the past 75 years.
Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, a former poetry editor at The New York Times Book Review and professor of American literature at Sarah Lawrence College gathered the works included in the new anthology. Schmidt’s spirited introductions place the poets and their poems in historical, literary context, and shine light on the interesting and often uneasy relationship between politics and art. This is an inviting, monumental collection for every library, containing much of the best poetry written in America during the past eight decades.
To mark the publication of the new anthology, seven former U. S. Poets Laureate/Consultants in Poetry reunited at the Library on Oct. 6.
The evening program was sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Office, the Library’s Publishing Office, W.W. Norton and the Poetry Society of America, an organization celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
“The Poets Laureate Anthology,” an 816-page hardback book, is available for $39.95 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (www.loc.gov/shop/) or by calling (888) 682-3557. It is also available in bookstores nationwide and online.
The Poets Laureate are appointed for one- or two-year terms by the Librarian of Congress. The choice is based on poetic merit alone and has included a wide variety of poetic styles. The position started in 1937 and was then called Consultant in Poetry. In the mid-1980s, a public law changed the title to “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.” A list of the consultants/laureates, with dates served, can be found at www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate-2001-present.html.