What It Means to Be Here

Me with "Poetry's Catbird Seat" outside the Jefferson Building.

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.

5 Comments

  1. J. R. Guedes de Oliveira
    August 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS!

  2. Bárbara Herrnsdorf
    August 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    I loved your piece here! Bravo! I have to admit that the Library of Congress is hands down my favorite place on earth! I can completely relate to your feelings of pride, awe, humility and responsibility. Since I love it as I do, I have wanted desperately to bring my husband and about a week ago we were in D.C. and I was finally able to bring him! Of course, we took the tour since the docents are all amazing and each gives yet another aspect, look, or fact that was previously unknown to me. We both took advantage of the privilege and got our library cards. We were so honored to receive them! The buildings, the staff and the collections are the very best of what humanity has to offer and being part of maintaining the collection is truly a great honor! Thanks for your part!

  3. Theresa Defino
    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Rob,

    Did anyone tell you about this book? It’s wonderful.

    There’s a short bio of each poet and info about his or her selection and tenure,
    followed by selected readings. A must!

    //catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=15082&recCount=100&recPointer=50&bibId=16249216

    Theresa Defino

  4. Mary-Ann Monforton
    September 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    A lovely heartfelt piece.
    Congratulations Rob!

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