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April 3, 2002

"Poetry for the People" at the Library of Congress: A Program Celebrating National Poetry Month

On Thursday evening, April 25, a program celebrating National Poetry Month will be presented at the Library of Congress. "Poetry for the People" will feature national and local celebrities reading poems from the new anthology, The Hell with Love: Poems to Mend a Broken Heart, edited by Washington writers and teachers Mary Esselman and Elizabeth Velez. It will be held in the Mumford Room, on the 6th floor of the Library's James Madison Memorial Building, at 7 p.m. Tickets are not required.

The readers will include poets Marie Ponsot, Carolyn Creedon, and Kim Konopka; Lisa Ling, of the ABC Television program, "The View"; actress Jewell Robinson; Warren Brown, lawyer-turned-cake baker and one of People magazine's "50 Most Eligible Bachelors, 2001"; Andrew Carroll, executive director of the American Poetry and Literacy Project; Marianne Walters, director of the Family Therapy Practice Center; Susan Jane Gilman, author of Kiss My Tiara; and a representative of the president's office, Georgetown University.

Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Velez have been friends and collaborators for years, beginning in 1985, when Ms. Esselman was assigned to be Ms. Velez's teaching assistant in the English department at Georgetown University. Since then they have taught classes together at Georgetown, reported stories together for People magazine, and seen each other through major life changes.

Mary Esselman grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. She earned her B.A. degree in English at Georgetown University in 1984 and her M.A. degree in English there in 1987, after having spent a year teaching English in Belize. She has taught English at the American University, Marymount University, the U.S. Senate Page School, and Georgetown University. Her freelance work includes features for "Discovery Channel Online," People magazine, and USA Weekend. She has researched, associate-produced, and written public television documentaries and currently works at WETA, where she is manager of a multimedia project on helping children learn to read.

Elizabeth Ash Velez is a writer, poet, and teacher who lives and works in Washington, D.C. She teaches English and Women's Studies at Georgetown University and is the academic coordinator of the Community Scholars Program there. She also writes regularly for People magazine. Ms. Velez was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi. She has a B.A. degree in philosophy from Austin College in Sherman, Texas; an M.A. degree in teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University; and an M.A. degree in English from Georgetown University. She has taught in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the south Bronx, and Harlem.

The poetry and literature reading series at the Library of Congress is the oldest in the Washington area, and among the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s and has been almost exclusively supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who wanted to bring the appreciation of good literature to a larger audience. The Poetry and Literature Center administers the series and is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress.

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PR 02-047
04/03/ril 3, 2002
ISSN 0731-3527

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