April 11, 2007 First-Ever Joint Reading By U.S. and British Poets Laureate on May 10
Donald Hall and Andrew Motion to Give Series of Poetry Readings in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and London
Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Patricia Gray (202) 707-1308
U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall and British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion will participate 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, which will take place in Chicago on May 7; Washington, D.C., on May 10; and London on June 6 are sponsored jointly by the Library of Congress, the Poetry Foundation and the London-based Poetry Society.
The event at the Library of Congress will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, in the Coolidge Auditorium at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The Library’s reading is free and open to the public; tickets and reservations are not required.
The event in Chicago will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 7, in Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago. In London the reading will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, at St. Giles-in-the-Fields Church. The events are free and open to the public, but reservations are strongly encouraged; call (312) 787-7070.
The poets laureate will read their own work as well as important works by their contemporaries. The talks will focus 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.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “The readings will present us with a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements of these two distinguished poets laureate and to honor the rich poetic literary traditions of our two countries.”
John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, said, “These historic readings will promote critical awareness of, and a shared readership for, the contemporary poetry written on both sides of the Atlantic. The Poetry Foundation is pleased to be in partnership with the offices of the U.S. and British Poets Laureate in renewing an old and integral friendship.”
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.
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. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/poetry.
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.
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. For more information on the Library of Congress poetry program, visit www.loc.gov/poetry.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is one of the largest literary foundations in the world. An independent literary organization, it exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. Through a variety of activities and partnerships with other leading poetry organizations around the world, the Poetry Foundation is currently working on a new series of programs titled “Poetry Across the Atlantic,” designed to renew the venerable and important friendship between the poetries of the United States and those of the United Kingdom. The Poetry Foundation Web site provides a variety of information about poetry as well as articles, podcasts, and reading guides. For more information, visit www.poetryfoundation.org.