A Note from Poets House Executive Director
In a neighborhood coffee shop last spring, I saw a young man with a poem by Ezra Pound tattooed on his beautifully flexed bicep:
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.
Excited by my chance encounter with a kindred spirit, I asked him about the poets he liked. He said he didn’t like poetry. Didn’t like poetry? That poem was carved into his body!
During my twenty-five years as Executive Director of Poets House, I have encountered many people who cling to a prayer, a song, or a line of verse as if it were their last handhold on a cliff…even though they swear not to like poetry. Maybe these people don’t recognize that what they like is poetry. Or maybe the problem is the word like. We like sandwiches. But we live in language.
When Poets House installed poetry paths in zoos a few years ago, visitors liked what they read so much they could recite whole stanzas to our interviewers. When those same visitors learned what they liked was poetry, they were often surprised. Creating an invitation into the surprise of poetry is part of the Poets House mission; and the space at 10 River Terrace manifests the joy of people making discoveries together in a 60,000-volume poetry library and a place of inspiration: a children’s room filled with singing, writing, movement; free poetry class trips for students; programs and exhibitions; partnership events streaming from libraries throughout the US.
This season our onsite programs continue their yearlong inquiry into truth-telling across genre. We also feature Ed Sanders’s whimsical poetry-drawings—the glyphs. Later in the spring, the 23rd Poets House Showcase displays the annual harvest of poetry books from around the country.
But the highlight of our season is the 20th anniversary of the Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge, on June 8th. Timed with an exhibition of Whitman-inspired artists’ books from The Brooklyn Museum Library and period treasures from Emory University’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, we will walk and declaim the great poems about our city in ecstatic, ritualized pilgrimage. This is one of the most remarkable experiences of poetry ever—please come too!
And what’s not to like? Frost called poetry a talking song. Pound said it was “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” Whatever you call it…just buying coffee like me, or listening to songs on your playlist, you encounter it. Poets House is an invitation into enter a deeper hearing, and an invitation into some of the great conversations of your lifetime. They await you. Ride your bike to Poets House or walk through the gardens this spring. Bring your family. Show us your tattoos.
— Lee Briccetti, Executive Director