By ERIN ALLEN
On Aug. 10, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Philip Levine as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2011–2012. The announcement received a lot of media coverage, both locally and nationally, and generated social-media buzz, including thousands of “tweets.”
Of Levine, Billington told The New York Times, “He’s the laureate, if you like, of the industrial heartland. It’s a very, very American voice. I don’t know that in other countries you get poetry of that quality about the ordinary working man.”
Elizabeth Lund of the Christian Science Monitor said, “The Library of Congress may have given Americans a much-needed hero when it named Philip Levine the United States Poet Laureate earlier this week. Levine’s working-class background and impressive accolades make him the perfect role model both for struggling writers and for millions of Americans who wonder if the whole world is spinning out of control, taking their money and dreams along with it.”
Levine was interviewed by several media outlets, admitting that he was stunned and surprised to be asked to take on the position. “It just wasn’t something that I thought I’d get,” he told The Washington Post.
“I want to bring poetry to people who have no idea how relevant poetry is to their lives,” Levine said to the Los Angeles Times.
Levine’s poems are noted for their urban perspective and depiction of blue-collar Detroit—his attempt to capture the “absolute truth” as a former factory worker in the Motor City.
“The assumption that you could
give the absolute truth simply by observing
is nonsensical,” he told National
Public Radio. “It is, in a way,
in almost obedience to my emotions
that I shape the experience so that I
can express how I felt and what it was
I felt about.”
Levine also was named one of “Summer’s Biggest Winners” by Newsweek, along with Ashton Kutcher, Kate Middleton and Prince William and Jill Abramson. Other coverage included The Associated Press, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, economist.com, salon.com and a variety of Canadian outlets.
Shortly after the announcement of the Poet Laureate’s appointment, the Library closed one its most popular rotating exhibitions, “The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection.” Since its opening in April, the display of rare tintypes and ambrotypes drew more than 300,000 visitors and received extensive media coverage.
The Huffington Post wrote “These evocative portraits show their subjects with more candor than most modern, staged photographs could hope to achieve.”
“There are images of men, or boys,
with looks of serenity, of confidence,
of innocence, as they stand before
photographers to get the equivalent
of a snapshot to send home to family
or sweethearts, perhaps for the
last time,” said Michael Ruane of
The Washington Post. “Together, the photographs constitute a mosaic of the Civil War generation, which gave at least 620,000 lives in the creation of a new United States.”
Chuck Myers of The Virginian-Pilot wrote, “The images possess a striking intimacy that personalizes the conflict. Moreover, many of the pictures may denote the last record of some of the individuals. Part of the viewing enjoyment lies in reading gestures that offer hints about the sitter’s personality.”
NBC Nightly News ran a story on April 11, followed by a photoblog on msnbc.com. Brandon Liljenquist, son of the donor Tom Liljenquist, described the process of collecting and assembling the material “a labor of love for our entire family.”
Other outlets running stories about the exhibition included Where Magazine, City Journal, Parade Magazine, Slate, Civil War News, About.com and broadcast outlets WETA-TV and C-SPAN.
Speaking of exhibitions, the Library opened a new one, “I Love Lucy: An American Legend,” on Aug. 4. Drawn from items in the Library’s collections, the exhibition marks the 60th anniversary of the show’s debut. The Washington Post’s arts blog said the exhibit “is worth the stop for both die-hard fans and novices alike.” In addition, Washington, D.C.’s NBC affiliate featured an interview with exhibit curator Raymond White on Aug. 6, the 100th anniversary of Ball’s birth.
Like its exhibitions, the Library’s collections are often the subject of media attention. Aired on July 18, C-SPAN’s 90-minute documentary on the nation’s library and its collections was well-received. The Los Angeles Times named it a “top of the ticket,” “required viewing” and several program guides highlighted the special as a “must-watch.”
The Library’s film and sound collections also receive much media coverage as does the facility in which they are housed. Amy Robach of NBC News stopped by the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Preservation in Culpeper, Va., in July.
“My tour begins in the frigid
39-degree vault where the vast collection
of delicate nitrate film is
stored,” said Robach. “In the preservation
lab, specialists meticulously
salvage what they can from rare
films. And, thanks to the archivists,
we’ll always have Frankenstein’s
hand and Dracula’s abbey,” she
said. The reporter also offered to
donate a few cassette tapes—Poison and Whitesnake—to join the more than 3 million sound recordings in the collection.
On a final note, The Hill ran a story on one of the Thomas Jefferson Building’s most interesting features—the Neptune Fountain.
“The Library of Congress is impressive
in its grandiosity, but a subtler
piece of the building’s architecture is
perhaps even more striking,” said reporter
Becki Steinberg. “On a sticky
July afternoon, The Court of Neptune
Fountain serves as a destination in
itself at the base of the steps to the Thomas Jefferson Building.”
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Office of Communications.