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Lyrical Legacy

Four hundred years of American song are explored in Lyrical Legacy, an activity from the Library's Learning Page Web site. Although the Learning Page is designed with teachers and their students in mind, its activities, lessons and guides to the American Memory collections (Collection Connections) can be used by anybody with a thirst for knowledge.

Photograph of ceiling painting in the Members Room, Thomas Jefferson Building, opened in 1897 Photograph of ceiling of the South Corridor, Thomas Jefferson Building, opened in 1897

April is National Poetry Month, and the Library of Congress Web site is an excellent resource for American poetry. The Poet Laureate of the United States (currently Ted Kooser) is chosen by the Librarian of Congress, and the holder of the position maintains an office on the top floor of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building.

The Poetry page offers links to Kooser and his American Life in Poetry project, which provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column on poetry. The column reaches more than 1.5 million readers.

You can also read about the notebooks of Walt Whitman that are in the Library's collections. The notebooks, an invaluable resource on Whitman's early career, contain early versions of poems that appeared in "Leaves of Grass," his major work, and notes from his time as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

You can also view a Webcast, called "Verses of the Troubadors." In it, Robert Kehew discusses his recently published anthology of poetry of the French troubadours, "Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours, a Bilingual Edition." The anthology honors the meter, word play, punning and sound effects in the troubadours' works, while celebrating the often playful, bawdy and biting nature of the material.

The Library also sponsors a very active series of programs related to poetry. A schedule of these events provides all the details on time and place and how to attend. Some of the nation's -- and the world's -- most eminent poets have participated in Library programs.


A. Photograph of ceiling painting in the Members Room, Thomas Jefferson Building, opened in 1897. The panel represents the Light of Poetry. In the center of the panel, Poetry is mounted on Pegasus, holding a torch in one hand while reaching toward the light of the ideal. The background figures portray the afterglow of Tradition and Mythology. The cherubs depict Tragedy and Comedy, Lyric Poetry, Pastoral Poetry and Fable. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Photograph of ceiling of the South Corridor, Thomas Jefferson Building, opened in 1897. Here the paintings by Henry Oliver Walker honor poets. The names of American poets, Longfellow to Poe, appear in wreaths in the mosaic of the vaulted ceiling on the north side; ancient and non-American poets, Theocritus to Ronsard and Browning to Heine, can be found in the central medallions and the wreaths on the south side. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.