Today the capital is quiet―Congress is on recess, and many DC residents are on vacation somewhere else. Even the throngs of summer tourists have subsided a bit as the season is winding down. As we at the Poetry and Literature Center prepare for our new Poet Laureate’s opening reading and the season that lies ahead―and our 75th anniversary―a day like today makes me think beyond my checklist to larger matters.
When I first started in this position, it took me a good month to stop staring out the balcony window of the Poetry Room at the postcard view of the Capitol. Of course, the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building―which houses the Poetry and Literature Center offices―is equally breathtaking, and both sit across from the Supreme Court. I can now manage to see these three pillars of our government and not shake my head in wonder. In fact, I’ve found there’s something comforting about them―they remind me that many people have had an opportunity to work inside their halls, all in service of the ideals the buildings so solidly represent.
I have thought that way about my job in particular. Not long after I started, my boss gave me a copy of Poetry’s Catbird Seat: The Consultantship in Poetry in the English Language at the Library of Congress, 1937-1987. The title might sound a little dry, but I found the book to be both engaging and instructive. This is the first job I read the history of in a book, and it was humbling to learn about all those who established the legacy of the office. I so appreciate the privilege of my time here and the part I get to play in continuing the center’s efforts.
Luckily I’m not alone. The office currently includes full-time staffer Caitlin Rizzo and a temporary detail position, held by Kelly Yuzawa, to assist with the center’s online initiatives. There are also many people around the library who help the center out, including co-blogger Peter Armenti! I have never worked in a big institution like the Library of Congress, and the community here continues to amaze and inspire me. To be here is to feel the power of the place in its architectural timelessness, but also to feel the great charge of the people―fellow library staff who are adding to the legacy of the country, including celebrating and preserving essential poems and stories from around the world. I could not be prouder to be among them.