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May 9, 2000

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky to Close 1999-2000 Literary Series at the Library of Congress

On Wednesday evening, May 10, Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Pinsky will bring the Library's 1999-2000 literary season to a close with a reading from his work at the Library of Congress. The program will be at 6:45 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium on the Ground Floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Tickets are not required.

Mr. Pinsky was first appointed by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in 1997 and is bringing his unprecedented third term to a conclusion with this reading. Last spring, the Librarian announced a "once-in-a-century" series of appointments in preparation for 2000, the Library's Bicentennial year. He named Mr. Pinsky to serve a third term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. In addition, the Librarian named three Special Consultants to assist with the poetry programs of the Bicentennial year. The three Special Consultants were former Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and W.S. Merwin.

During his tenure at the Library, Mr. Pinsky brought a range of poets to read in the literary series and granted Witter Bynner Fellowships to poets Carol Muske and Carl Phillips (1998); David Gewanter, Campbell McGrath, and Heather McHugh (1999); and Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (2000).

He also launched his popular Favorite Poem Project, a Bicentennial project of the Library of Congress, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and Boston University. At the White House on April 22, 1998, Mr. Pinsky and the two immediate past Poets Laureate, Rita Dove (1993-95) and Robert Hass (1995-97), joined President and Mrs. Clinton as they read poems and announced that the Favorite Poem Project would also be part of the nation's Millennium Celebration.

Since its beginning, the Project has sponsored many Favorite Poem readings at public libraries, schools, and other venues across the United States. It features a broad cross section of Americans reading their favorite poems aloud. One collection of Americans' Favorite Poems, edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz, was published early in 2000. On April 3, a collection of audio and video recordings was presented to the Library in a Favorite Poem reading, titled "Poetry in America," part of an event that continued the next day with seminars and additional readings, titled "Poetry and the American People: Reading, Voice, and Publication in the 19th and 20th Centuries." The Favorite Poem archives is one of the Library's Bicentennial "Gifts to the Nation," and illustrates what poetry means to Americans from many walks of life at the end of the century.

The tapes created for the Favorite Poem Project will become part of the Library of Congress's extensive Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, which includes readings by more than 2,000 writers during the second half of the 20th century.

The Poetry and Literature Series schedule is posted on its Web site at http://www.loc.gov/poetry; a Web page about the Favorite Poem Project is available at http://www.favoritepoem.org (external link).

Mr. Pinsky teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Boston University. His most recent collection of poems is Jersey Rain (2000). Other works include his poetry collections 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 the editor of The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow and the author of The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide.

Mr. Pinsky is the author of three other 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. 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.

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 frequent contributor to "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS television, reading poems related to current events.

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PR 00-073
5/9/00
ISSN 0731-3527

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