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Literary Treasures: River of Words Award Ceremony 2012

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The following post is part of our new From the Catbird Seat series, “Literary Treasures.” The monthly series champions the Library’s literary programming by highlighting audio and video recordings drawn from the Library’s extensive online collections, including the recently released Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature. The series, by showcasing the works and thoughts of some of the greatest poets and writers from the past 75 years, helps further Library’s mission to “further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”

I’ve noticed over the past two years working here at the Poetry and Literature Center that we get a lot of inquiries about the U.S. Poet Laureate selection process–inquiries such as “by whom is the selection made, and by what poetic merit,” and “what does poetic merit mean,” or “what are the duties of the Poet Laureate,” etc., etc. All good questions, yes. And for the sake of not having to answer all of them now, I’ll point you to a past blog post written by fellow Catbird Seat contributor Peter Armenti that does a superb job covering the process. But as for answering that last question, though our Laureates don’t have to do anything, I want to share with you a prime example of how dazzling the position proves to be from Laureate to Laureate, and how wonderfully effective. Below is our featured webcast for October, in which our 8th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Bob Hass honors ten remarkable young poets and artists — ranging in age from 7 to 16 — and more than a dozen national finalists at the 17th annual River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards in 2012.

And the doings of our Poets Laureate don’t stop there, of course — there are multiple Laureate projects living past their parent-Laureates’ terms with us: in the past 15 years we’ve seen The Favorite Poem Project by Robert Pinsky; American Life in Poetry by Ted Kooser; Poetry 180 by Billy Collins; Poetry for the Mind’s Joy by Kay Ryan; Where Poetry Lives by Natasha Trethewey; and, presently, the new project La Casa de Colores by our 21st Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, which will launch its second feature, “El Jardin,” this mid-October. (Click here to read about La Casa de Colores’s first feature to launch, “La Familia,” a year-long epic poem written by the public, and how you can contribute.) For more information about the above projects, please visit our Past Poet Laureate Projects page.

Let’s change the inquiry to: What aren’t the duties of the Poet Laureate?

Happy October!