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Poets House: New Home, Fresh Start

posted: 12.7.09 by archived

With no rent to pay until 2069, and 11,000 square feet in a newly-constructed “green” residential building in Battery Park City, Manhattan, Poets House literally has a new lease on life.

Founded by the late poet Stanley Kunitz and arts administrator Elizabeth Kray in 1985, Poets House lived for many years at 72 Spring Street in a Soho loft.  It housed an extensive library of poetry titles, hosted readings, workshops, book launches, and sponsored poetry in the schools. Kunitz established the institution as a public service to stimulate dialogue and education on poetry and to provide a place for poets to gather.

He also established the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, a prestigious  residency where juried artists and writers focus on artistic projects for 9 months in a beautiful, secluded setting.

Poetry lovers at Poets House

Poetry lovers at Poets House, c. 2009 by

Poets House now has a collection of over 50,000 poetry titles, including chapbooks, journals, tapes, and digital media. In its new location, it has more space for workshops and readings, as well as a new Children’s Room to foster a love of poetry in young minds.

Other innovations—spectacular when you consider they are done in the name of poetry—include an outdoor ampitheatre, where readings will be held in fine weather, much the way music is performed in the summer at Tanglewood. In the near future, projections of sonnets on the sidewalk outside Poets House will welcome visitors into the distinctive space.

Poets House, Reading Room, photo by Elizabeth Felicella

Poets House, Reading Room, photo by Elizabeth Felicella

Recent programs include lectures on poetics and poetic movements, workshops with renowned poets such as Naomi Shihab Nye, seminars on poetry from around the world including the recent 500 Years of Latin American Poetry and Polish Poetry Now, and conversations with poets of various sensibilities and aesthetics.

In late September, celebrities—poets and otherwise—gathered for a week of festivities when Poets House re-opened after an almost 2-year transition from Soho to Battery Park. Marie Howe, Kamiko Hahn, Charles Bernstein, Regie Cabico, Quincy Troupe, Galway Kinnell, and Natalie Merchant were among the poets and entertainers. Excellent event planning by PH staff made it quite a media event.

Natalie Merchant at Poets House opening, c. 2009 by

Natalie Merchant at Poets House opening, c. 2009 by

Poets House is a tremendous gift to the public and to American culture. “Poets House is not just about creating an opportunity for people to fall in love with language, but to enter a conversation with all the poets who ever lived—to enter into a conversation between the living and the printed word,” says Executive Director, Lee Briccetti.

Poets House would make a great field trip, or an excellent winter break destination for budding readers and writers.

Stanley Kunitz, twice the US poet laureate, died in 2006 at age 100.

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Categories: Creative Writing, Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature
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