The Power of Poetry: Introducing PLC Intern Caroline Harris

The following guest post is by Caroline Harris, a summer 2017 intern in the Poetry and Literature Center.

Caroline in the Poetry Office at the Poetry and Literature Center.

I wrote my first poem on the second day of sixth grade. It was called “Ode to an Artichoke.” In rhyming couplets, I praised every aspect of my favorite vegetable. No stranger to hyperbole, I labeled artichokes “my heart’s one true desire.”

My first attempts at writing poetry were simplistic, cliché and a little embarrassing. But it didn’t matter what I was writing or how well I was writing it. What mattered was that I was writing. When I wrote poetry, time stood still. There was nothing as pressing and poignant as the page in front of me. Writing poetry gave my life purpose and direction. Reading poetry reminded me I’m never alone. There are others who have thought my thoughts and experienced my experiences.

That feeling has stayed with me. I’m in love with language. I’m in love with poetry because it is the essence of language. Whole worlds can be rendered in a few stanzas. Whole experiences can be represented by carefully selected images.

I pursue my love of language as an English major at the University of Pennsylvania. In classes like Al Filreis’ Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, I’ve become more sensitive to what language is and does. I’ve learned about the power of poetry to create community, hold space and express the otherwise inexpressible.

“Poetry is the air we breathe,” Al said. “Everything else is a utility.”

This summer, I’m fortunate to intern in the Poetry and Literature Center. The PLC administers the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry position among other national programs, prizes and initiatives. The PLC promotes the power of poetry and, for that reason, it’s an endlessly inspiring place to work.

There’s so much history, energy and vitality in these walls. I shelve bookshelves lined with my favorite poets, from Ocean Vuong to Sylvia Plath. I write blog posts in the Poet Laureate’s office and think about the brilliant writers who have sat where I’m sitting. I research the writers who inspire me to write. Each morning, I walk down Independence Avenue with a huge smile on my face. Working in the Poetry and Literature Center is the dream of all dreams. No work feels more important, invigorating and exciting.

I’m so honored to join the Library of Congress community. This space supports lifelong reading, writing and learning. It encourages sixth graders to write odes to artichokes. Above all, it champions the idea that poetry is as essential as the air we breathe.

Hooray for Juan Felipe!

The following post was written by Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center. Though our spring season is officially over, much is still going on at the Poetry and Literature Center. We are looking forward to announcing the next Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in a couple of weeks—to that end, last week […]

Poetry Set to Music: A Collaborative Opportunity

The following guest post, part of our “Teacher’s Corner” series, is by Rebecca Newland, a Fairfax County Public Schools Librarian and former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress. One possible way to engage students with poetry is to explore poems that have been set to music. Consider collaborating with music teachers in your […]

Pirates of English Literature

The following is a guest post by Mark F. Hall, a research specialist with the Library of Congress’s Digital Reference Team. Over Memorial Day weekend, Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) and the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will sail into theaters across the country.  While the storyline, special effects, […]

Exploring Historical and Current Social Issues through Poetry

The following guest post, part of our “Teacher’s Corner” series, is by Rebecca Newland, a Fairfax County Public Schools Librarian and former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress. In our up-to-the-minute society, we receive news almost as soon as it happens. For this reason students who engage with social media often have interest […]

Chronicling National Poetry Month, vol. IV: Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s Closing Events

The following is a guest post by Anastasia Nikolis, a graduate student intern in the Poetry and Literature Center and a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Rochester. Somehow it is the last week of April, which means it is the last week of National Poetry Month, and the end of […]

Chronicling National Poetry Month, vol. III: Spotlight on the Poetry of America series

Listen: Mary Jo Bang reads and discusses Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl, Part III.”   The following is a guest post by Anastasia Nikolis, a graduate student intern in the Poetry and Literature Center and a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Rochester. This week’s National Poetry Month feature spotlights the Poetry of […]

Chronicling National Poetry Month, vol. II: Bobbitt Prize Winners Claudia Rankine and Nathaniel Mackey

The following is a guest post by Anastasia Nikolis, a graduate student intern in the Poetry and Literature Center and a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Rochester. This week’s National Poetry Month post features the two 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry winners: Claudia Rankine for her 2014 […]

Reading Whitman

The following guest post was written by Barbara Bair, historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division. In this month celebrating the work of poets, we can honor Walt Whitman—the poet of democracy and nature, of sexuality and modernity, of globalism, nationalism, and mysticism—as both the people’s poet and the poet’s poet. The Library of Congress’s recent […]