Happy New Year, and welcome to the inaugural post for “From the Catbird Seat: Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress.” My name is Robert Casper—I am the head of the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, and am pleased to welcome you here. This blog is one of the features of the Center, located up in the attic of the Thomas Jefferson Building—Reed Whittemore used the term “catbird seat” to describe the Library’s Consultant in Poetry (more on the position below), but it could just as easily describe the place of the office, and the view of the Capitol it offers.
Here’s a little more information on the Poetry and Literature Center: it was founded almost three quarters of a century ago, along with the first of the Library’s Consultants in Poetry (which, thanks to an act of Congress passed in 1985, became our Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry). The Center supports the Poet Laureate and also coordinates an annual literary season of public poetry, fiction and drama readings, performances, lectures and symposia. You can find out about our current Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, here, and check out our Spring programs here.
Posts to this blog will offer an inside view of the Center and our programs, as well as feature guest bloggers (including our Poets Laureate, as well as reference librarians and division specialists within the Library) talking about literature and the wealth of literary treasures here at the Library of the Congress. Part of the Library’s mission is “to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations”—this blog aims to showcase the Poetry and Literature Center’s efforts, to celebrate the best stories, poems, plays, and literary nonfiction and ensure their place in the Library.
Finally, a personal story: when I was a boy, I used to head to my local library in Chilton, WI, after school. My grandmother was the librarian, and I sat on the floor of her office for hours, amidst piles of books, pouring through the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown series and anything else I could get my hands on. That’s where my love of literature and libraries comes from, and I am happy to be here three decades later and show how this, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is a haven for all who want to enjoy the art.
Next week the other chief contributor to this blog, Peter Armenti, will introduce himself and talk about his work to support literary researchers and enhance access to the Library’s literary collections. We promise a dynamic range of posts in the weeks and months to come!