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Featured Webcast: A Celebration of American Poets Laureate

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SPEAKERS: Mark Strand, Charles Simic, Kay Ryan, Maxine Kumin, Daniel Hoffman , Rita Dove , Billy Collins
EVENT DATE: 10/06/2010
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)

DESCRIPTION: Some of the most distinguished voices in American poetry--seven former U.S. Poets Laureate/Consultants in Poetry--reunited in the historic Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress for a night of poetry. The event marked publication of "The Poets Laureate Anthology," a volume which brings together for the first time in print a sampling of poems by all of the Poets Laureate.


Mark Strand, born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, received a BA from Antioch College, a BFA from Yale and an MA from the University of Iowa. He is the author of 10 books of poems, including "Blizzard of One," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He has received many honors, including a MacArthur fellowship and three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Strand also has published a collection of stories, "Mr. and Mrs. Baby," many translations and several anthologies. He currently teaches in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Charles Simic was born in Yugoslavia on May 9, 1938. His childhood was complicated by the events of World War II. He moved to Paris with his mother when he was 15; a year later, they joined his father in New York and then moved to Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, where he graduated from the same high school as Ernest Hemingway. Simic attended the University of Chicago, working nights in an office at the Chicago Sun Times, but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961 and served until 1963. He earned his bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966. From 1966 to 1974 he wrote and translated poetry, and he also worked as an editorial assistant for Aperture, a photography magazine. He married fashion designer Helen Dubin in 1964. They have two children. He has been a U.S. citizen since 1971 and lives in Strafford, N.H.

Kay Ryan was born in 1945 in San Jose, California, and grew up in the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. For more than 30 years, she taught remedial English at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California. Ryan's poems are known for their brevity, wit, and frequent use of slant and internal rhymes. Her most recent book is The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010). Ryan served as U.S. Poet Laureate for two terms, from 2008 to 2010. During her tenure, she initiated a poetry project that focused on poetry written by community college students across the nation. The project, "Poetry for the Mind's Joy," included a poetry-writing contest, a videoconference with students at community colleges, and designation of April 1 as Community College Poetry Day. The events were sponsored by the Library, in collaboration with the Community College Humanities Association.

Maxine Kumin, born and raised in Philadelphia, received a bachelor's degree in 1946 and a master's in 1948 from Radcliffe College. Her poetry themes include family relationships, rural life in New England and the inner life of women. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for "Up Country: Poems of New England." The mother of three children, she published 11 books of poetry, taught for several years at Tufts and served as poet in residence at many colleges and universities. She and her husband raised horses on their farm in New Hampshire.

Daniel Hoffman, born in New York City, was educated at Columbia, through to the Ph.D. He is the author of nine books of poetry, including "Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems"; a verse novel, "Middens of the Tribe," and "Brotherly Love," a finalist for the National Book Award in 1985. His poetry is noted for merging history, myth and personal experience. He is Felix E. Schelling Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rita Dove, born in Akron, Ohio, was a 1970 Presidential Scholar as one of the 100 best high school graduates in the United States that year. She received a bachelor's from Miami University of Ohio and a master's from the University of Iowa. Her poetry collection, "Thomas and Beulah," won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. She also wrote "Grace Notes"(1989), a volume of short stories, and "Through the Ivory Gate" (1992), a novel. Her most recent book of poetry is "American Smooth" (2004). Dove is a professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Billy Collins was born in New York City. He is one of America's best-selling poets. His books include "Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems" in 2001, "Picnic, Lightning" in 1998, and "The Art of Drowning" in 1995. In October 2004, Collins was the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry. He has served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and he is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 30 years.

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