Poetry Contests, the National Library of Poetry, and Amateur Poetry Anthologies

One of my jobs as a digital reference specialist is to answer questions submitted through the Poetry and Literature Center’s Ask a Librarian form. The questions I receive tend to cluster around two or three major categories, such as how to find literary criticism on a novel and how to locate the full text of […]

Come Away!

The following is a guest post by Hope O’Keeffe, supervisory attorney-advisor in the Office of the General Counsel at the Library of Congress. You never know when you’ll change someone’s life. In third grade, I spent an afternoon visiting Great Aunt Mill’s friend Laura Hulse, a real poet with the most books I’d ever seen […]

The More the Merrier . . .

Regular Poetry and Literature Center program-goers may notice something different in this year’s calendar: a number of different Library co-sponsors at the bottom of our program listings. Let me explain how this came to be. In my first few months here at the Library of Congress, I discovered a) that there are all sorts of […]

Not For Sissies

The following is a guest post by Denise Gallo, supervisory librarian for the Acquisition And Processing Section, Music Division at the Library of Congress. Until I turned to musicology in the late 1990s, I taught college English. Most semesters, I was constrained to read (and correct) sentence fragments and make sure my students didn’t dangle […]

Phillis Wheatley

To mark the beginning of Women’s History Month, which follows on the heels of African American History Month, From the Catbird Seat would like to recognize Phillis Wheatley’s major impact on both literary history and women’s history. In 1773, Wheatley became the first African American woman to publish a book.  Wheatley’s book, a volume of […]

State Poets Laureate: Widely Instated

In a recent post I discussed the history of the U.S. poet laureateship. What I didn’t mention, however, is that the job title “Poet Laureate” isn’t restricted to this national position: many U.S. states, counties, cities, and other jurisdictions have created analogous Poet Laureate positions at the local level. In fact, more than twenty years […]

Congratulations to Rita Dove

The following is a guest post by Bryan Koen, graduate research assistant for the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. The Poetry and Literature Center congratulates former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Rita Dove, to whom President Obama awarded the National Medal of Arts on Monday, February 13. At the White House […]

George Washington: Love Poet

From the Catbird Seat decided to combine our celebrations of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day—not an easy thing to do!—by highlighting the youthful poetic efforts of George Washington. Yes, well before Washington was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army or President of the United States, he was just another teenage boy who turned to […]

What Do Poets Laureate Do?

Philip Levine reads his poetry at the Library of Congress, October 17, 2011

Philip Levine, whose poetry has honored the working man for almost half a century, gave his inaugural reading as the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress on Oct. 17.

On August 10, 2011, Philip Levine was appointed the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. As the current U.S. Poet Laureate, Levine now occupies one of the best known literary positions in the country. Yet despite its high public profile, there are many aspects of the laureateship that remain unclear, or downright mystifying, to the public.

One bit of confusion is the widespread belief that the laureateship is funded with taxpayers’ money. In fact, the position is maintained through a privately funded endowment made to the Library in 1936 by the philanthropist Archer M. Huntington. Another uncertainty surrounds the official title of the Poet Laureate. From 1937 to 1985, the title was “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress”; in 1985, an act of Congress changed the title to “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.” The greatest confusion, however, centers on a more fundamental question about the nature of the position:

What, exactly, does a Poet Laureate do? Read more »

Remembering Langston Hughes

The following is a guest post by Caitlin Rizzo, staffer for the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. Last Wednesday marked what would have been the 110th birthday of beloved American poet Langston Hughes. In celebration of this milestone, the Manuscript Division and the Poetry and Literature Center co-hosted a Literary Birthday […]