I am excited to let you know about a feature we just launched today: “The Poetry of Home,” a weekly video series featuring four of our U.S. Poets Laureate sharing and reflecting on the subject of “home.” This series was developed in partnership with The Washington Post and will be published to their site every Friday for the next four weeks; the videos will also be archived as a virtual part of our popular “National Book Festival Presents” series and promoted on the Library’s newly launched “Engage!” site.
The kickoff of “The Poetry of Home” features our current Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, and her poem “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” and will continue with Robert Pinsky on April 17, Juan Felipe Herrera on April 24, and Natasha Trethewey on May 1.
I have to give credit to everyone at The Washington Post for pulling off the production of the video, and launching of the series, in less than three weeks! And I want to thank Joy and our other participating laureates for helping remind us how poems can and do help in times of crisis.
Joy’s video begins with an image of a laptop on a kitchen table, with her on the screen from her studio in Tulsa, OK—reminding us how we are now connecting to friends and family virtually. She says, “The very early years of my growing up were the best, because my parents were there—and we had a kitchen table.” She brings up the connection between food and stories, which leads her to how she began the featured poem: with the line “The world begins at a kitchen table.”
Ultimately, Joy brings up the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and talks about American society being on “the precipice of change” even before the pandemic hit. For her, this crisis points out our country’s state as a “home divided”—a state we cannot be happy in. Instead, we should all be “around the kitchen table” with our differences. And she gives the example of having classrooms with students from all over the world, connecting through poetry, good stories, and good food.
The video closes with a beautiful animation of her poem, which ends:
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
This could not be a better way to start this series. I know you will find it as moving as I did, and I hope you join me in watching all of the videos in “The Poetry of Home.”