April 29, 1999 Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky to Close 1998-99 Literary Series at the Library of Congress

Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191

WHO: Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Pinsky

WHAT: a reading from his work

WHEN: 6:45 p.m. May 5

WHERE: Coolidge Auditorium, ground floor, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E.


Mr. Pinsky was first appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in 1997 and is bringing his second term to a conclusion with this reading, which also closes the Library's 1998-99 literary season.

Earlier this month, the Librarian announced a "once-in-a-century" series of appointments in preparation for the Library's Bicentennial year in 2000. He named Mr. Pinsky to serve an unprecedented third term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. In addition, the Librarian has named three Special Consultants to assist with the poetry poetry programs of the Bicentennial year. The three Special Consultants are former Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Louise Gl√ľat;ck, and W.S. Merwin.

During his first two terms, Mr. Pinsky brought a range of poets to read at the Library and has granted Witter Bynner Fellowships to poets Carol Muske, Carl Phillips, David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath.

He also launched his popular Favorite Poem Project, a Bicentennial project of the Library of Congress, which is also supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Boston University, the New England Foundation for the Arts and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The launch included a five-city public poetry reading and publicity tour in its first year. At the White House on April 22, 1998, Mr. Pinsky and the two immediate past Poets Laureate, Rita Dove (1993-95) and Robert Hass (1995-97), joined President and Mrs. Clinton as they read poems and announced that the Favorite Poem Project would also be part of the nation's Millennium Celebration.

Since its beginning, the Project has sponsored 15 official, and almost 300 unofficial Favorite Poem readings at public libraries, schools, and other venues across the United States. The project features a broad cross section of Americans reading their favorite poems aloud. In April 2000, which is the Library's bicentennial and National Poetry Month, 1,000 audio and 200 video recordings will be presented to the Library. The Favorite Poem archives will be one of the Library's Bicentennial "Gifts to the Nation," and will illustrate what poetry means to Americans from many walks of life at the end of the century. A Web page about the Favorite Poem Project is available at www.favoritepoem.org External.

The presentation of poetry readings will be made during a special Bicentennial conference on "Poetry and the American People: Reading, Performance, and Publication." The conference will be held April 3-4, 2000, at the Library of Congress, and will include readings by the Special Consultants and the Poet Laureate.

The tapes created for the Favorite Poem Project will become part of the Library of Congress's extensive Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, which includes readings by more than 2,000 poets and authors during the second half of the 20th century.

Mr. Pinsky teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Boston University. His most recent publications are The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow and The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide, which Mr. Pinsky describes as "a brief, plain book about how to hear poems."

Mr. Pinsky's other works include the collections of his poetry Sadness And Happiness (1975); An Explanation of America (1980), awarded the Saxifrage Prize as the year's best volume of poetry from a small or university press; History of My Heart (1984), which won the William Carlos Williams Prize in 1995; The Want Bone (1990); and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996 (1995), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is co-translator of The Separate Notebooks, by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz (1983). His verse translation of The Inferno of Dante (1994) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

Mr. Pinsky is also a recipient of the 1996 Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award. His writing has won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Mr. Pinsky has also written the essay collections Landor's Poetry (1968); The Situation of Poetry (1977); and Poetry and the World (1988), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism.

Having served as poetry editor of The New Republic through much of the 1980s, he is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate, and a contributor to "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS television, reading poems related to current events. Mr. Pinsky has also introduced several early recordings of Favorite Poem Project volunteers on "Anthem," a weekly cultural program on National Public Radio.


PR 99-064
ISSN 0731-3527