The following is a guest post from Camila Escobar-Vredevoogd, the 2012 Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center.
I arrived here fresh from the University of Virginia, where I earned my undergraduate degree in English and Psychology. My love for poetry brought me to the Library of Congress this summer, and I’d like to share one of the myriad stories I have to describe how powerfully it has affected me.
My final college all-nighter, a mere three weeks ago, is an exception to what many would testify is a miserable experience. While I did indeed spend the hours of 2-5 AM in a glazed stupor, cursing even my beloved Longman Anthology of Romantic literature, I eventually hauled my anthology, my laptop, and my tired feet over to the Rotunda for a change of scenery around 5:30.
The Rotunda was the original library for the University of Virginia and remains the iconic symbol of UVA. It stands at the head of the Lawn and the Academical Village. That morning, the view from the Rotunda was foggy and wet with dew. As I allowed myself to collapse, exhausted, at the top of the steps with my unfinished conclusion to my paper on Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” staring expectantly at me, the fog began to clear.
Sunrise that day was at 6:17 a.m. Around that time, the birds began to sing. I felt like singing as I finished my conclusion. Keats’ words were barely discernible on the page due to my absurd dedication to marking poems up before writing papers on them, but I’d spent so much time with “Ode to a Nightingale” that the words hung in the air in front of me as I looked up from my work to listen.
I felt this simple, unadulterated ecstasy. All night I’d been writing about birdsong and articulation in the still silence of the art studio, but on the Rotunda I was listening to a literalization of Keats’ words—more than that, it was poetry come alive. It was all around me.
This is not when I first fell in love with poetry. Rather, it’s a tale of a very recent reaffirmation I experienced of poetry’s ability to revolutionize our everyday lives. I’m so happy to be in a place like the Poetry and Literature Center, where an appreciation for poetry is necessary to do my job. With many recent college graduates currently unable to obtain any sort of fulfilling work, I’m excited to be a poetry nerd with the rest of the PLC staff!