Contact: Sheryl Cannady, Library of Congress, (202) 707-6456
Pat Malanga, English Department, Williams College, (413) 597-2114

Lisa Halliday, The Wylie Agency, (212) 246-0069

Public contact: Library of Congress, (202) 707-5394/5
Website: www.loc.gov/poetry

August 28, 2003

Librarian of Congress Appoints Louise Glück Poet Laureate

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced the appointment of Louise Glück as the Library's 12th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. She will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library's annual literary series on Tuesday, Oct. 21 with a reading of her work. Glück succeeds Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, Howard Nemerov, Mark Strand, Joseph Brodsky, Mona Van Duyn, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Stanley Kunitz and Billy Collins.

On Wednesday, Oct. 22, the literary series will continue with a Favorite Poem reading featuring Frank Bidart and former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. In addition to programming the new reading series, Glück will participate in events in February and again in May at the Library of Congress. On making the appointment, the Librarian said, "Louise Glück will bring to the Library of Congress a strong, vivid, deep poetic voice, accomplished in a series of book-length poetic cycles. Her prize-winning poetry and her great interest in young poets will enliven the Poet Laureate's office during the next year."

Louise Glück is the author of nine books of poetry, including "The Seven Ages" (Ecco Press, 2001); "Vita Nova" (1999), which was awarded The New Yorker magazine's Book Award in Poetry; Meadowlands (1996); "The Wild Iris" (1992), which received the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award; "Ararat" (1990), which received the Library of Congress's Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; and "The Triumph of Achilles" (1985), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Boston Globe Literary Press Award, and the Poetry Society of America's Melville Kane Award. Louise Glück has also published a collection of essays, "Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry" (1994), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. This fall, Sarabande Books will publish in chapbook form a new, six-part poem, "October."

In 2001 Yale University awarded Louise Glück its Bollingen Prize in Poetry, given biennially for a poet's lifetime achievement in his or her art. Her other honors include the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, the Sara Teasdale Memorial Prize (Wellesley, 1986), the M.I.T. Anniversary Medal (2000), and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is a member of the American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters, and in 1999 was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2003 she was named as the new judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and will serve in that position through 2007.

A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Glück has taught at Williams College since 1983 and teaches courses in the writing of poetry and in contemporary poetry as the Margaret Bundy Scott Senior Lecturer in English.

Background of the Laureateship

The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate in order to permit incumbents to continue to work on their own projects while at the Library, but each Laureate is encouraged to bring new emphasis to the position. Allen Tate (1943-44) served as editor of the Library's publication of that period, Quarterly Journal, during his tenure and edited the compilation "Sixty American Poets, 1896-1944." Some consultants have suggested and chaired literary festivals and conferences; others have spoken in a number of schools and universities and received the public in the Poetry Room.

Increasingly in recent years, the incumbents have sought to find new ways to broaden the role of poetry in our national life. Maxine Kumin initiated a popular women's series of poetry workshops at the Poetry and Literature Center. Gwendolyn Brooks met with groups of elementary school children to encourage them to write poetry. Howard Nemerov conducted seminars at the Library for high school English classes. Most incumbents have furthered the development of the Library's Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in public places--supermarkets, hotels, airports, and hospitals. Rita Dove brought a program of poetry and jazz to the Library's literary series, along with a reading by young Crow Indian poets, and a two-day conference entitled "Oil on the Waters: The Black Diaspora," featuring panel discussions, readings and music. Robert Hass sponsored a major conference on nature writing called "Watershed," which continues today as a national poetry competition for elementary and high school students entitled "River of Words." Robert Pinsky initiated the Favorite Poem Project, which energized a nation of poetry readers to share their favorite poems in readings across the country and in audio and video recordings. Most recently, Billy Collins instituted the Web site Poetry 180, designed to bring a poem a day into high school classrooms.

Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry

  • Joseph Auslander: 1937-41
  • Allen Tate: 1943-44
  • Robert Penn Warren: 1944-45
  • Louise Bogan: 1945-46
  • Karl Shapiro: 1946-47
  • Robert Lowell: 1947-48
  • Leonie Adams: 1948-49
  • Elizabeth Bishop: 1949-50
  • Conrad Aiken: 1950-52
    first to serve two terms
  • William Carlos Williams
    appointed in 1952 but did not serve
  • Randall Jarrell: 1956-58
  • Robert Frost: 1958-59
  • Richard Eberhart: 1959-61
  • Louis Untermeyer: 1961-63
  • Howard Nemerov: 1963-64
  • Reed Whittemore: 1964-65
  • Stephen Spender: 1965-66
  • James Dickey: 1966-68
  • William Jay Smith: 1968-70
  • William Stafford: 1970-71
  • Josephine Jacobsen: 1971-73
  • Daniel Hoffman: 1973-74
  • Stanley Kunitz: 1974-76
  • Robert Hayden: 1976-78
  • William Meredith: 1978-80
  • Maxine Kumin: 1981-82
  • Anthony Hecht: 1982-84
  • Robert Fitzgerald: 1984-85
    appointed and served in a health-limited capacity, but did not come to the Library
  • Reed Whittemore: 1984-85
    Interim Consultant in Poetry
  • Gwendolyn Brooks: 1985-86
  • Robert Penn Warren: 1986-87
    first to be designated Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry
  • Richard Wilbur: 1987-88
  • Howard Nemerov: 1988-90
  • Mark Strand: 1990-91
  • Joseph Brodsky: 1991-92
  • Mona Van Duyn: 1992-93
  • Rita Dove: 1993-95
  • Robert Hass: 1995-97
  • Robert Pinsky: 1997-2000
  • Stanley Kunitz: 2000-2001
  • Billy Collins: 2001-2003

The poetry and literature reading series at the Library of Congress is the oldest in the Washington, D.C., area and among the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s and has been almost exclusively supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who wanted to bring the appreciation of good literature to a larger audience. The Poetry and Literature Center administers the series and is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (December 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series and plans other special literary events during the reading season.

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PR 03-148
08/28/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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