A Note from Poets House Executive Director
Stanley Kunitz begins his poem “The Layers”:
I have lived through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray…
This poem reminds me of our work together in building Poets House, an organization he co-founded with the brilliant arts administrator Elizabeth Kray. Stanley writes later in “The Layers,” “I have made a tribe of my affections.” This line suggests the visionary gleam from which Poets House grew, driven by the realities of working artists’ lives and the need to create a community of affections for artistic practice.
Stanley would be proud of what Poets House has become in its permanent home in Lower Manhattan. Our 60,000-volume library (in open stacks) is open to everyone. Over 65,000 people visit us annually to use the collection, or to attend great programs, or see exhibitions that focus on the relationship between the visual and literary arts; 14,000 of these people are children who come on free class trips or with their families to use The Children’s Room, built just for them. Millions more find Poets House online or through our national outreach programs in libraries and zoos.
It is joyous to see visitors in the library stretched out with piles of poetry books, in a space where there is room for interiority as well as conversation. There are many points of entry—from intellectually engaging events on poetics for practitioners, to special help from our librarian in finding a poem to read at a friend’s wedding. Everyone is invited to be part of this discovery of language in action.
This program season explores poets’ diverse practice in other genres, engaging poet-librettists, -journalists, -essayists, and -fiction-writers to help us think together about the plasticity of language and the particular genius of poetry. Genre from the Latin Genus, type, kind: a way for us to talk about literary structures and the ways in which poets play with, conflate, push away from, and construct new conventions.
In his recent review of the George Schneeman show, Holland Cotter referred to Poets House as “that hybrid of a library, study hall and exhibition space, floating like a utopian mirage over the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan.” We hope you will be with us often during this fall season—to visit this great hybrid library and to join us for conversations about poetry’s relationship to other literary forms...and the shape of our own lives.
— Lee Briccetti, Executive Director
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