March 16, 2000 Poetry Reading, Voice, and Publication in the 19th and 20th Centuries To Be Discussed at Library Symposium on April 4

Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: (202) 707-5395

The reading of poetry in American culture will be examined by distinguished scholars and commentators at a symposium at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, April 4. Part of "Poetry in America," a Library of Congress Bicentennial celebration, the all-day meeting begins at 8:45 a.m. in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The event is free and open to the public.

Planned in conjunction with the presentation by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky of archives from his "Favorite Poem" project to the Library of Congress, the symposium will examine the reading of poetry historically and underscore the importance of assembling collections such as the "Favorite Poem" archive. The making of the Favorite Poem project and its tapes will be discussed in a special presentation by Robert Pinsky, project director Maggie Dietz, and executive producer Juanita Anderson from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

"Poetry is an especially rich genre for book and cultural historians to explore because it is both intimate and public," said historian Joan Shelley Rubin, one of the symposium participants. "We hope this symposium will underscore the importance of documenting the practices of American readers and point the way to new research." Ms. Rubin organized the symposium in cooperation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Library's Poetry and Literature Center.

The symposium sessions and their participants are listed below. For further information, call the Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 202-707-5221, or visit the center's Web site at

8:45-10:15 a.m.
Recovering the Experiences of American Readers

Moderator: John Y. Cole, director, Center for the Book, Library of Congress

Participants: David D. Hall, Harvard University Divinity School, ed. with Hugh Amory, The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (1999); Barbara Sicherman, Trinity College, Hartford, Ct. author of a forthcoming study of women's reading in the progressive era; and Joan Shelley Rubin, Department of History, University of Rochester, author of The Making of Middle/Brow Culture (1992).

10:30-12 p.m.
Poetry and Voice

Moderator: Prosser Gifford, director, Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress

Participants: Kenneth Cmiel, Department of History, University of Iowa, author of Democratic Eloquence: The Fight Over Popular Speech in Nineteenth Century America (1990); Paul Breslin, Department of English, Northwestern University, a poet and critic who is studying the phenomenon of the poetry slam, and Robert Pinsky.

1:30-2:30 p.m.
The Making of the Favorite Poem Project and Tapes

Moderator: Prosser Gifford

Participants: Robert Pinsky; Maggie Dietz, project director, and co-editor with Robert Pinsky of America's Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Anthology (2000), and Juanita Anderson, Favorite Poem executive producer.

2:45-4:15 p.m.
Poets and Publishers

Moderator: John Y. Cole

Participants: Jerry W. Ward, Tougaloo College; Robert Boyers, editor, Salmagundi; and Leslie A. Morris, Harvard College Library.

4:30-6:00 p.m.
Poetry in America Today

Moderator: Prosser Gifford

Participants: All the participants will take part, along with poets Rita Dove, Louise Gl├╝ck, W.S. Merwin, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Joshua Weiner.


PR 00-040
ISSN 0731-3527