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Happy Birthday, Maxine Kumin and Gwendolyn Brooks!

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Preceding next week’s announcement of our 21st Poet Laureate, I thought it’d be nice to commemorate the lives and literary legacies of two former Consultants, Maxine Kumin and Gwendolyn Brooks–both of whom were born this first week of June. Each a powerful force for poetry in her own right, please enjoy the below compiled lists of audio/visual resources from the Library’s archives.

Maxine Kumin.
Maxine Kumin.
Photo © Susannah Colt

Happy Birthday to 25th Consultant in Poetry Maxine Kumin, born on June 6th, 1925!

Maxine Kumin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1925. She is the author of nineteen poetry collections, including Up Country: Poems of New England (1972), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Looking for Luck (1992), winner of the Poets’ Prize; and Where I Live: New and Selected Poems (2011). She also published over twenty children’s books, one memoir, five novels, several books of essays, and a collection of short stories. Kumin’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Council on the Arts, as well as the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern Poetry from the Sewanee Review, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Levinson Prize and the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize from Poetry magazine, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation. She served as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1981-1982; and, from 1995-1998, she served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Kumin taught writing at Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and Tufts University. She died in 2014.

Selected Library of Congress Resources:

Gwendolyn Brooks, the 29th Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress.
Gwendolyn Brooks

Happy Birthday to 29th Consultant in Poetry Gwendolyn Brooks, born on June 7th, 1917!

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1917. She is the author of over twenty poetry collections, including A Street in Bronzeville (1945); Annie Allen (1949), which won the Pulitzer Prize; and The Bean Eaters (1960). She also published several books of prose, including the novella Maud Martha (1953). Brooks received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the National Medal of Arts. She served as the Poet Laureate of Illinois from 1968-2000 and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1985-1986. In 1988, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Brooks taught Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She died in 2000.

Selected Library of Congress Resources:

And lastly, in light of next week’s big announcement, take a look at what Brooks said in regards to the position itself–regardless of whether the one holding it is considered Consultant or Laureate:

The administration of the Library of Congress in the past has shown great intelligence in selecting sane, talented and discriminating people to this post–after all, it selected me, didn’t it?–and it will continue to do so. It will not select people who will consent to write celebrations for sanitary installations. There is nothing to fear.

So with that, let us all make cakes and eat two extra slices for these dear Consultants–how spectacular they were, and through their poetry, continue to be.

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