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February 7, 2005

Singer-Songwriter John Prine To Join Poet Laureate Ted Kooser in Conversation on March 9

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress presents "A Literary Evening with John Prine and Ted Kooser" at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9, in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Although this event is free and open to the public, seating is limited and free tickets will be distributed at the Information Desk on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 5 p.m. the evening of the event. There is a limit of two tickets per person.

The program will include a lively discussion between the songwriter and the poet as they compare and contrast the emotional appeal of the lyrics of popular songs with the appeal of contemporary poetry.

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser said, "I've been following John Prine's music since his first album came out and have always been struck by his marvelous writing: its originality, its playful inventiveness, its poignancy, its ability to capture our times. For example, he did a better job of holding up the mirror of art to the '60s and '70s than any of our official literary poets. And none of our poets wrote anything better about Viet Nam than Prine's 'Sam Stone.'

Born in 1946, the son of a tool and die maker, Prine enjoyed a childhood imbued with classic American values and traditions that would later be incorporated into his songs. Following military service in Germany and a job with the U.S. Postal Service, Prine made his public debut at an "open mic" session at a local bar, whose owner promptly hired him. After Kris Kristofferson heard Prine perform at the venerable Earl of Old Town music club in Chicago, he assisted in Prine’s career move from local singer-songwriter to a national recording artist, who has won praise from critics around the country.

After moving to Nashville in the early 1980s, Prine formed Oh Boy records with his longtime manager Al Bunetta and associate Dan Einstein. Since 1986, Prine has recorded several Grammy-nominated albums with Oh Boy, and he won a Grammy for his 1991 album, "The Missing Years," which featured appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

Prine continues to tour and is slated to release his first original album in nine years, "Fair & Square," on April 26. "I've been asked to do a lot of things," said Prine, regarding his Library appearance, "but this is definitely a first ... And I don't even know how to quite respond to it. For a guy who carried mail, was in the service, did so-so in school, this is kind of beyond the stuff I usually think about. It's the kind of honor that's beyond ... So, you can bet I'm looking forward to it --- taking all these people in my songs to the Library of Congress and letting 'em look around a bit. It should be great, an honor, and everything else."

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington named Ted Kooser, a visiting professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, calling Kooser "a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains." The author of 10 collections of poetry and the recipient of numerous awards, Kooser studied at both Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska. His book of essays, "Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps" (2002), was chosen as the Best Book Written by a Midwestern Writer for 2002 by Friends of American Writers, and his most recent book, "Delights & Shadows," published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004, has been widely praised.

The origin of the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress dates to 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. The center itself was founded in the 1940s and has been almost exclusively supported since 1951 by a gift from Gertrude Clarke Whittall (1867-1965), who wanted to bring the appreciation of good literature to a larger audience.

Today, the Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. In addition to supporting the Poet Laureate’s activities and interests, the center sponsors an annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, occasional dramatic performances and other literary events.

In addition to scheduled public events, the center administers the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, a biannual $10,000 award for the best book of poetry published by a living U.S. author during the two years preceding the year of the award as well as the Witter Bynner Fellowships for emerging poetic talent.

For more information about the programs of the Poetry and Literature Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Library’s Web site at www.loc.gov/poetry.

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PR 05-022
02/07/05
ISSN 0731-3527

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