By ERIN ALLEN
Robert Casper, newly appointed head of the Poetry and Literature Center, has a mission: to unite the Library and engage the public, all in the name of prose and verse.
“The best thing I can do is expand programming of the center in as many ways as possible by connecting to the different parts of the Library,” he said, “and make poetry and literature something that everyone feels they can engage and participate in.”
Before coming to the Library, Casper was programs director for the Poetry Society of America, the nation’s oldest poetry organization. He organized 50 to 60 events a year, including poetry readings, panel discussions, conferences, awards ceremonies and festivals, and events that were held in 13 cities across the country.
Prior to that position, Casper served as membership director for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, the nation’s only organization for independent literary publishers, where he greatly increased membership and substantially raised membership revenues. He also provided technical assistance to the publishers and helped develop and coordinate an annual conference on the business dimensions of literary writing.
Ten years ago, Casper founded the literary magazine Jubilat, which publishes the best of contemporary American poetry, along with interviews and a variety of other short literary forms.
Through his tenure at the Poetry Society of America and publishing a literary magazine, Casper has worked with countless poets—a network he hopes to capitalize upon while at the Library.
“Coming to this job, I felt I’ve had a real exposure to literature writers and poets on a national scale,” he said. “It’s essential to the Poetry and Literature Center to connect to poets and writers in the D.C. area but also to the great diversity and dynamism of those across the world.”
Over the next few months, Casper plans to meet as many Library employees as possible in an effort to connect the center with other divisions. His goal is to link programming and resources to further promote the importance and value of poetry and literature.
Because of the center’s stature and that of its hallmark—the poet laureateship—Casper is driven to champion the importance of poetry and literature. To him, they are powerful tools for self-expression and understanding language and for pointing to the complexities, richness and endurance of life and history.
“Poetry and literature offer a way to experience the world more deeply,” he said.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Office of Communications.