Media Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
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October 4, 1999

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky Opens Fall 1999 Literary Series

Favorite Poem Project Progresses

The Library of Congress literary season begins with a reading and lecture by 1997-2000 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Pinsky at 6:45 p.m. on October 7 in the Mumford Room of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in April appointed Mr. Pinsky to an unprecedented third term as Poet Laureate. He also appointed three special consultants in poetry for the Library's Bicentennial: 1995-1997 Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Louise Glück and W.S. Merwin.

On April 24, 2000, the Library of Congress will be 200 and will celebrate its Bicentennial with a series of programs, including the Favorite Poem Project. The project, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the New England Foundation for the Arts and Boston University, is recording Americans reading their favorite poems. In April 1998 Mr. Pinsky issued a national call for submissions, asking Americans: "What is your favorite poem and why?" One year later, 18,000 people had responded. More than 400 libraries, schools and organizations held readings. This fall Americans' Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology will be published (W.W. Norton & Co., 1999). Also this fall, the first phase in the creation of a recorded archives will begin when a production team captures 50 Americans, in audio and video, for presentation to the Library on April 3-4, 2000, during a symposium: "Poetry in America: Reading, Performance and Publication in the 19th and 20th Centuries."

A schedule of 1999 poetry readings follows. All save one begin at 6:45 p.m. and are free and open to the public, with no tickets required. Readings will take place in either the Mumford Room or the Montpelier Room, as noted, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The readings are sponsored by the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund.

During the October 7 Mumford Room event, Mr. Pinsky will read from the new anthology Americans' Favorite Poems, and discuss the comments for each poem written by project participants and the anthology's editors. His most recent publications are The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow and The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide, which Mr. Pinsky describes as "a brief, plain book about how to hear poems." Mr. Pinsky teaches in the graduate creative writing department at Boston University.

Mr. Pinsky's other works include the collections of his poetry Sadness and Happiness (1975); An Explanation of America (1980), awarded the Saxifrage Prize as the year's best volume of poetry from a small or university press; History of My Heart (1984), which won the William Carlos Williams Prize in 1995; The Want Bone (1990); and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996 (1995), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is co-translator of The Separate Notebooks, by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz (1983). His verse translation of The Inferno of Dante (1994) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

Mr. Pinsky is also a recipient of the 1996 Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award. His writing has won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Mr. Pinsky has also written the essay collections Landor's Poetry (1968); The Situation of Poetry (1977); and Poetry and the World (1988), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism.

Having served as poetry editor of The New Republic through much of the 1980s, he is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate, and a contributor to "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS television, reading poems related to current events. Mr. Pinsky has also introduced several recordings of Favorite Poem Project volunteers on "Anthem," a weekly cultural program on National Public Radio.

On October 21 in the Montpelier Room, poets Kenneth Carroll and Donna Masini will read from their work. Mr. Carroll, a native of Washington, D.C., is director of the Urban Scholars Program for the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., where he manages the Books for Kids literacy project and WritersCorps. His first collection of poetry is So What: For the White Dude Who Said This Ain't Poetry (1996). Ms. Masini's book of poems, That Kind of Danger (1994), won the Barnard Women Poet's Prize. Her novel, About Yvonne, appeared in 1998. She is currently at work on a second collection of poems. She teaches in the M.F.A. program at Hunter College.

On November 4 in the Mumford Room, Teman Treadway will present "Call Me Ishmael," selections from Moby-Dick; Or, the Whale, by Herman Melville, selected, edited and read by Mr. Treadway and directed by Alyn Beauchamp.

Mr. Pinsky, Ms. Dove, Ms. Glück and Mr. Merwin will observe the Library's Bicentennial on November 10 in "Sharing the Gifts," a reading with 1999 Witter Bynner Fellows David Gewanter, Campbell McGrath and Heather McHugh. The seven poets will read from their own work at 8 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. Tickets are not required for this free event.

On December 2 in the Montpelier Room, Lucille Clifton and Eamon Grennan will read from their work. Ms. Clifton, who served as Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland from 1975 to 1985, is the recipient of many awards and honors, most recently the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. Currently serving as Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Ms. Clifton has published 10 collections of her poetry, an autobiographical prose work, and 19 children's books. Mr. Grennan has been on the faculty of Vassar College since 1974. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from University College, Dublin, and his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including As If It Matters (1992).

The Library of Congress, founded April 24, 1800, is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. It preserves a collection of 115 million items -- more than two-thirds of which are in media other than books. These include the largest map and film and television collections in the world. In addition to its primary mission of serving the research needs of the U.S. Congress, the Library serves all Americans through its popular Web site ( and in its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill.

"We will celebrate with pride our first 200 years of Library history," said Dr. Billington. "During that time, the Library has grown into the world's largest repository of knowledge and creativity, which it has preserved for all generations of Americans. "We want to take advantage of this opportunity to energize national awareness of the critical role that all libraries play in keeping the spirit of creativity and free inquiry alive in our society."

The Poetry and Literature Center, which administers the poetry series, is also the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late philanthropist Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Archibald MacLeish, who was Librarian from 1939 to 1944, determined the Consultant in Poetry should be an annual appointment. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 in 1985, as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

Request ASL and ADA accommodations five days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

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PR 99-144
ISSN 0731-3527

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