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March 24, 1999

Washingtonians to Read Favorite Poems at the Library of Congress

Famous Washingtonians will read some of their favorite poems at 6:45 p.m. April 7 in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. as part of Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project. The program, presented under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund, has been organized by 1999 Witter Bynner Fellow David Gewanter. Tickets are not required.

The readers will include members of Congress, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington; Philip Bobbitt, who created the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; Patch Adams, M.D., author of Gesundheit!: Bringing Good Health to You, the Medical System, and Society Through Physician Service, Complementary Therapies, Humor, and Joy and the subject of a recent motion picture; Harold Varmus, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Cliff Becker, Director of the Literature Program at the National Endowment for the Arts; and journalists.

At 5 p.m. that evening in the Coolidge Auditorium, Mr. Pinsky and poets Nikki Grimes and Judith Viorst, plus young poets from the Washington area, will inaugurate Young People's Poetry Week with poetry readings. This event is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Library's Poetry and Literature Office, the Children's Book Council, the District Lines Poetry Project and the Children's Literature Center in the Library of Congress.

The 6:45 p.m. Favorite Poem reading is part of Mr. Pinsky's main undertaking as Poet Laureate, the Favorite Poem Project. Mr. Pinsky is selecting a broad cross section of Americans reading their favorite poems aloud as part of the Library's Bicentennial. In the year 2000, when the Library celebrates its 200th birthday, Mr. Pinsky will present 200 video and 1,000 audio tapes of Favorite Poem readings to the Library for its Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature as one of the Library's birthday gifts to the nation. These readings by Americans will augment the existing Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, which has recordings of 2,000 poets and authors reading their work. Among them are Robert Penn Warren, Robert Frost, Maxine Kumin and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Mr. Pinsky launched the Favorite Poem Project last year to create audio and video archives of Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life reading aloud their favorite poems. It is rooted in Mr. Pinsky's belief that poetry is meant to be read aloud.

"The archives will be a record at the end of the millennium of what we choose and what we do with our voices and faces, when asked to say aloud a poem that we love," said Mr. Pinsky, who was first appointed Poet Laureate by Dr. Billington in 1997 and reappointed in 1998.

The Favorite Poem Project's two long-term goals are to promote reading and appreciation of poetry and to encourage the teaching of poetry in schools nationwide. Many Favorite Poem readings have occurred throughout the country in the past two years. The reading on April 7 is the second annual Favorite Poem program presented at the Library of Congress and organized by Mr. Gewanter.

"It will be a gift to the nation's future: an archive that may come to represent, in a form both individual and public, the collective cultural consciousness of the American people at the turn of the century," said Mr. Pinsky, a professor of English and creative writing at Boston University.

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PR 99-041
3/24/99
ISSN 0731-3527

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