I am very lucky to be gainfully employed on behalf of literature. But as much as poems and stories are at the heart of my work time, mostly I’m focused on checking calendars and filling out forms and following up on e-mails. In fact, sometimes I need a reminder, or an excuse, to turn my attention back to the real work of my office.
Last week I had just such an experience, with a group of people who have have turned to poetry regularly for almost a quarter-century. The group is called the Occasional Thursday Night Players. As member Richard Krimm describes, “The Occasional Thursday Night Players first met November 1990, at Jackie Quillen’s house in Georgetown. . . . We started with a group of 10 members and now have a membership of 26. We meet monthly, except for July and August.” The players meet in each other’s homes—the host selects the featured poet. As you can imagine, the list of poets they’ve covered is many pages long. It includes both canonical and contemporary poets, and is impressive in its range.
I found out about the Occasional Thursday Night Players when I first started at the Library. One of its members, Carolyn Morgan, is the mother of President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities member Olivia Morgan—Olivia is the driving force behind the National Student Poets Program, which the Library of Congress helps coordinate. Carolyn introduced me to the Players, and I was honored to be invited to be a member!
Last week I finally had the opportunity to play host to the group. It was a pure joy to have the ten members sit in our Poetry Room and read their selected poems, by Ellen Bryant Voigt. Each member gave a unique sense of voice to the poems they read, and it was wonderful to hear them talk about their selections as well. A few said they hadn’t known of Ellen’s work until preparing for our gathering but were thrilled to have the opportunity. Nothing could have made me happier.
As much as the office serves as the home to the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, it also serves to welcome such groups as the Occasional Thursday Night Players—groups of people who see the value of poetry in their everyday lives, and who are committed to discovering and celebrating poets old and new. In fact, after our read-around had finished, one of the Players asked me, “Do other groups like ours exist?”—and I could only reply, I hope so! The future of our art depends on it.
If you have a poetry reading group, please reply to this blog and let us know. And please come visit us in the attic of the Library’s Jefferson Building. Our home is your home too.