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February 25, 2005

Adam Kirsch To Discuss "Confessional" Poets of the Post-WW II Era on April 7

Adam Kirsch, who the Los Angeles Times calls "one of the most promising young poet-critics in America," will discuss his book "The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets," at the Library of Congress at 12 p.m., on Thursday, April 7, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, is free and open to the public.

Adam Kirsch, book critic for the New York Sun and author of "The Thousand Wells" (2002), has written for The New Republic as well as for The New Yorker. In "The Wounded Surgeon," he examines what it means "for a poet to be honest with himself." This book is an examination of six poets whose daring work helped to inspire the popular mode of poetry now known as "confessional."

The six — Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell and Delmore Schwartz — formed one of the great constellations of talent in American literature in the years following World War II. It has been said that these poets overturned prevalent notions of what poetry should be, moving away from T.S. Eliot’s dominant conception of the "poetics of impersonality" and toward a poetry in which the poet’s own life was fully immersed in and transformed by the verse. At times, their tumultuous private lives (battles with severe depression, alcoholism, suicidal impulses) would be more widely known than their significant artistic achievements. Of the six poets, three of them — Lowell, Bishop and Jarrell — held the Library of Congress Poetry Consultant Chair during the 1940s and ’50s.

The origins of the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress date from 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. The center itself was founded 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.Today, the Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. In addition to supporting the poet laureate’s activities and interests, the center sponsors an annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, occasional dramatic performances and other literary events.

In addition to scheduled public events, the center administers the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, a biannual $10,000 award for the best book of poetry published by a living United States author during the two years preceding the year of the award. The center also coordinates the Witter Bynner Fellowships for emerging poetic talent.

For more information about the programs of the Poetry and Literature Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860, telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at http://www.loc.gov/poetry.

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PR 05-039
02/25/05
ISSN 0731-3527

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