By DONNA URSCHEL
Trees with blue blossoms, estate sales, life as a sales clerk and 40 years of life in a three-story tenement were some of the topics of poems read by 11 noted poets—all past Witter Bynner Fellowship Award winners—at the Library of Congress on April 18 in an evening of poetry readings and reminiscences.
The poets gathered, before an enthusiastic audience in the Coolidge Auditorium, to celebrate the Witter Bynner Foundation's generosity to the awards program. Each year the foundation provides funds to the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, who, in conjunction with the Library, makes monetary awards to two emerging poets to support their writing. The program started in 1998.
After introductions by Steven Schwartz, the executive secretary of the Witter Bynner Foundation, and Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, the poets read in two sessions. The first, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., featured Carol Muske-Dukes, Carl Phillips, David Gewanter, Campbell McGrath and Joshua Weiner. The second reading, from 8 to 9:30, featured George Bilgere, Major Jackson, Rebecca Wee, Spencer Reece, Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls.
"I'd like to thank the recipients who choose to be poets and who persevere. Thank you for embracing your life and your passion," said Schwartz.
At the conclusion of the evening, Prosser Gifford, head of the Office of Scholarly Programs, said, "It's interesting how in 12 minutes each, you could get a sense of the vibrant personality of each poet, whether he or she were grieving, driving, thinking about clouds or closets full of unwanted objects, or describing a pair of scissors."
Witter Bynner Foundation board members attended the celebration. In addition to Steven Schwartz, they included Douglas Schwartz, Bob Kurth, Janet McKay, Lara Morrow and Mark McDaniel. The foundation is based in Santa Fe, N.M.
Donna Urschel is a public affairs specialist in the Library's Public Affairs Office.