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Greetings from the Catbird Seat

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I am over the moon to join the Poetry and Literature Center and to introduce myself on “From the Catbird Seat.” Originally from mid-Michigan, I just landed in Washington, D.C., from Western Massachusetts—the place I’ve called home for nearly a decade. Years ago, while completing my MFA in poetry at UMass Amherst, I also worked as managing editor for jubilat, a literary magazine founded and published by Rob Casper—who is now, as we know, the head of the Poetry and Literature Center. When Rob stepped down as jubilat’s publisher five years ago to focus full-time on this new position—a bittersweet series of events for our staff—I first learned about the Poetry and Literature Center. Who knew that one day I would be working here, too!

My first day at the Library, in awe and incredulous.
My first day at the Library, in awe and incredulous.

My own path to Washington, D.C., and to the Library still has me reeling: less than two months ago I was still living in Western Massachusetts, commuting to Brattleboro, Vermont, for a marketing job. In the spring my husband and I decided to move to D.C., and I wrote to my few contacts in the area looking for work in editing, communications, marketing—the kind of work I had been doing since grad school. I was beyond surprised when Rob followed up with me about working at the PLC. In none of the numerous scenarios I had played out in my head did I imagine I would be lucky enough to land a job in literature. By the first week of August, we had furiously gutted our apartment in Massachusetts, packed the rest of our earthly possessions (plus our cat), and found ourselves settling into an apartment in Rockville (our two-day search window didn’t do much to help us stay within the District!).

Coming to the PLC as a poet is an otherworldly feeling. I never dreamed that my personal and professional worlds would collide like this—actually getting the chance to help shape and promote literary initiatives—and at the Library of Congress, in the same place as the Office of the Poet Laureate. Sitting in the space where Elizabeth Bishop once sat writing poems, looking out over the PLC’s balcony, is exhilarating.

I am so humbled and excited to use my professional experience to help elevate the PLC’s outreach and impact. I’ve edited literary magazines, study abroad catalogs, reports on human rights violations, and industry guides on top law firms in the U.S. I’ve planned literary events in local and national settings, and I’ve coordinated public and private trainings on corporate social responsibility. I’ve worked in marketing at an international education nonprofit. I’ve written and managed newsletters and web content for multiple organizations. All of these diverse experiences propel me here to the PLC, ready to enter a new creative space and tackle and learn as much as I can.

Because the majority of my role here will focus on the Center’s web presence, I am most excited to highlight the vast and vastly impressive collection of materials the PLC has to offer and build upon: thousands of audio recordings by poets and writers from events dating back to the 1940s; webcasts and interviews with diverse writers, both established and emerging; and an impressive archive of literature-sharing initiatives launched by our Poets Laureate; just to name a few! And I look forward to the seemingly unending opportunities to digitally engage local and national communities with an enthusiasm for literature.

As I round out my first month here at the Library of Congress, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to be part of this rich, storied institution. I have met so many dynamic, inspired colleagues. I can’t count the number of times I get lost in the web of Library buildings (a daily ritual I’ve learned to love as an experiment in exploration). There are spontaneous dance parties in our office that occur right alongside diligence and hard work. And just the other day, I joined a phone call with Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to discuss his second-term projects—a conversation in which he used phrases like “verbal chandeliers” and “splashy-flashy” and “super groovy hip-hop tasty” to excitedly explain his visions and ideas. I’ve never worked in such an imaginative, creative, and collaborative place—and here I am, so ready to learn from and contribute as much as I can to the Poetry and Literature Center community!

Comments (4)

  1. Welcome to your new place.
    Your enthusiasm for this fresh adventure makes me want to back up the calendar a few years when adventures jutted off in different directions, often cress-crossing.
    Congratulations and enjoy.
    Shirl McPhillips

  2. So glad that you’re doing this!

  3. Congratulations. Years ago I enthusiastically came to D.C., but for another agency. Now I’m back in the Washington State.

    I’d like to suggest an opportunity to digitally engage a national community (i.e. me). I would like to hear an audio (and video!) recording of the poet, Kenneth Fearing. I’ve “asked a librarian” but LOC doesn’t have such a recording.

    Given your graduate degree in poetry, can you find a recording of Fearing reading his poetry?

    Thank you.

    Ira B. Appelman

    • Thanks for your comment, Ira! I, as well as other poets and poetry scholars, are unaware of an extant recording of Fielding reading his work. For example, in a Poetry Foundation podcast on Kenneth Fearing featuring producer Curtis Fox and Robert Polito (editor of the Library of America’s 2004 collection Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems), Fox says at 02:35: “As far as I know there are no recordings of Kenneth Fearing reading his own poetry…and I’ve looked long and hard and haven’t been able to find any.” Polito himself says that he also is unaware of a recording of Fearing reading his poetry. Based on this, as well as the information previously provided to you by our reference staff, it appears that there are no known recordings of Fearing reading his poetry.

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