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The Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress

About the Poetry & Literature Center

Origins of the Poetry and Literature Center date from 1936, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. 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. As a unit of the Library of Congress, the Center functions within the Library’s Office of Scholarly Programs.

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.

Image of Gertrude Clarke Whittal
Gertrude Clarke Whittall,
probably in the early 1930s

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 newer poets, a five-year program to recognize emerging talent.

Over the years, recordings of poets reading from their works have been made for the collections of the Library of Congress. These poetry archives may be consulted through the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.