Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
August 23, 1994
Academy American Poets Celebrates 60th Anniversary
Recipient of the Academy's First Tanning Prize to Be Announced
On Thursday, September 29, the Academy of American Poets will observe its 60th anniversary with a special reading at the Library of Congress. The program and reception to follow, co- sponsored by the Library's Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund and the Academy, will feature readings by Academy Chancellors John Ashbery, Amy Clampitt, Anthony Hecht, Daniel Hoffman, John Hollander, Richard Howard, Stanley Kunitz, William Meredith, W. S. Merwin, David Wagoner, and Richard Wilbur. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Rita Dove will introduce the program, which will be in the Montpelier Room at 8 p.m. Tickets are not required.
The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 to support American poets during all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. The largest organization in the country dedicated specifically to the art of poetry, the Academy sponsors programs nationally. These include an annual fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement; the Tanning Prize; four major book awards; poetry prizes at 150 colleges and universities; the Atlas Fund, which provides assistance to non-commercial publishers of poetry; and a popular series of public readings and symposia that began in New York City in 1963 and is now presented in several cities across the country.
The new Tanning Prize, the largest prize for poetry in the United States, is an annual award of $100,000 to a living American poet in recognition of outstanding and proven mastery of the art of poetry. The painter Dorothea Tanning presented to the Academy a gift of $2 million to endow the prize. As part of the Academy's 60th anniversary celebration at the Library, the recipient of the first Tanning Prize will be announced.
Ten years ago, the Academy's Chancellors held a 50th anniversary program at the Library of Congress; the Chancellors who read at that time were Robert Fitzgerald (1984-85 Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress), Daniel Hoffman (1973-74 Consultant in Poetry), John Hollander, Stanley Kunitz (1974-76 Consultant in Poetry), James Merrill, Howard Nemerov (1988-90 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry), and Mona Van Duyn (1992-93 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry). Among the current Chancellors reading this September 29 are former Consultants in Poetry Anthony Hecht (1982-84), Daniel Hoffman, Stanley Kunitz, and William Meredith (1978-80), and former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Richard Wilbur (1987-88).
The poetry and literature reading series at the Library of Congress is the oldest in the Washington area, and one of 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 enjoyment and appreciation of good literature to a larger audience. The Poetry and Literature Center, which administers the series, is also the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late philanthropist Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 in 1985, as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series, plans other special literary events during the reading season, and usually introduces the programs.
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