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The “Poetry of America” initiative is part of the Poetry and Literature Center’s 75th Anniversary celebration. Through two features, “Poetry of American Identity” and “Poetry of American History,” this initiative explores how poetry connects to the following themes: immigration and migration, work and industry, social change, and peace and war.

Poetry of American History

A selection of essays and interviews by leaders in the literary field, including former Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry, that illustrate how poems by Americans helped define or expand the country. This presentation aims to complement conventional historical texts and showcase poetry’s place as an essential tool for recording our nation’s past.
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One Poet's View of Social Change

Maxine Kumin

". . . the playing field is still not level for women who write poetry"

Peace and War in American Poetry

David Lehman

"Americans tend to take the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty for granted, so much so that it sometimes seems as if she has always stood in New York Harbor signaling 'world-wide welcome' … much of what Lady Liberty stands for came from this poem …"

Poetry of American Identity

A collection of field recordings by a wide range of award-winning contemporary poets. Each poet reads a singular American poem of his or her choosing, and also speaks to how the poem connects, deepens, or re-imagines our sense of the nation. The feature includes a print version of the poem to complement the recording, as well as a piece by the participating poet.
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Fanny Howe reads and discusses John Wieners’ “The Acts of Youth”

Fanny HoweJohn Wieners

“John Wieners’ poems are the means by which he rescues himself. The poems relieve his anguish as they offer rhythm in the ritual of writing…”

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Naomi Shihab Nye reads and discusses Lisa Suhair Majaj’s “Guidelines”

Naiomi Shihab Nye Lisa Suhair Majaj

“It reminds me of the power of language to ease situations of potential conflict. Instead of backfiring with fury, the poem gently engages and expands.”

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Tony Hoagland reads and discusses Kenneth Patchen’s “The Orange Bears”

Tony Hoagland Kenneth Patchen

“This seems to me to be a beautiful social and political act performed through poetry, which is the act that really lies at the heart of pacifism and our ideas of justice, and reminds us of our right to feel outrage …”

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