TITLE: Poetry Across the Atlantic
SPEAKER: Donald Hall, Andrew Motion
EVENT DATE: 05/10/2007
RUNNING TIME: 64 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall and British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion participated in a historic series of joint poetry readings in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and London, sharing the stage for the first time and reacquainting the poetries of America and the United Kingdom.
The readings were sponsored jointly by the Library of Congress, the Poetry Foundation and the London-based Poetry Society.
The poets laureate read their own work as well as important works by their contemporaries. The talks focused largely on each laureate's understanding of his country's most significant poetic voices -- both established and emerging -- that may be unfamiliar to readers overseas.
King James I established the office of "poet" in Great Britain for Ben Jonson in 1617, although the title "poet laureate" was not used until it was conferred on John Dryden in 1670. Historically, it has been the job of the British poet laureate to write poems commemorating state occasions or events related to the monarchy.
In the United States, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress serves as the nation's spokesperson for poetry, raising the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of writing and reading poetry. The position has existed under two separate titles: from 1937 to 1986 as "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress" and from 1986 forward as "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry." The poet laureate is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress and serves from October to May.
The office of the U.S. Poet Laureate is in the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center. The Center stimulates and enhances the public's appreciation of poetry and the literary arts as a creative activity and as part of the Library's living and historic treasures. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, appointed by the Librarian of Congress, is the highest position of honor for a poet in this country. Past Laureate Consultants include Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, James Dickey and more recently, Stanley Kunitz, Maxine Kumin, Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky.
Speaker Biography: Donald Hall was born in New Haven, Conn., in 1928. He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1951 and his bachelor's in literature from Oxford University in 1953. He has published 15 books of poetry, beginning with "Exiles and Marriages" in 1955. His most recent is "White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006," a volume of his essential life's work. One of his books for children, "Ox-Cart Man," won the Caldecott Medal. His 20 books of prose include "Willow Temple: New and Selected Stories" (2003); "The Best Day The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon" (2005); and a collection of his essays about poetry, "Breakfast Served Any Time All Day" (2003). Hall has served as U.S. poet laureate since September 2006.
Speaker Biography: Andrew Motion was born in 1952. He studied English at University College, Oxford, and subsequently spent two years writing about the poetry of Edward Thomas for a master's degree of letters. From 1976 to 1980, he taught English at the University of Hull; from 1980 to 1982 he edited the Poetry Review; and from 1982 to 1989 he was editorial director and poetry editor at Chatto & Windus. He has recently been appointed professor of creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Motion has published over a dozen collections of poetry, as well as biographies of Philip Larkin and John Keats. Motion was appointed Poet Laureate in May 1999.