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Poetry and Literature

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A selection of essays and interviews by leaders in the literary field, including former Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry, that illustrate how poems by Americans helped define or expand the country. This presentation aims to complement conventional historical texts and showcase poetry’s place as an essential tool for recording our nation’s past. The authors are expressing their own opinions in these essays, which may not necessarily reflect the position of the Library of Congress.

One Poet's View of Social Change at the Library of Congress, by Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin

". . . the playing field is still not level for women who write poetry"

Read the essay by Maxine Kumin

The Poetry Crowd, by Donald Hall

Donald Hall

"Technology is metal, art is flesh. Technology is black and white, art is the palette of Matisse."

Read the essay by Donald Hall

Rhymes of the Survivors, by Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser

"If it wasn't art, it was history, it was folklore, it was authentic and genuine and it touched me. Would I ever be able to write a poem that someone would want to keep in a scrapbook?"

Read the essay by Ted Kooser

Peace and War in American Poetry, by David Lehman

David Lehman

"Americans tend to take the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty for granted, so much so that it sometimes seems as if she has always stood in New York Harbor signaling 'world-wide welcome' … much of what Lady Liberty stands for came from this poem …"

Read the essay by David Lehman