With the opening of the new Poetry Foundation building this month, American poetry gets a new home. The Chicago-based independent literary organization, which aims to celebrate the art form and disseminate it to as many people as possible, has built a space that will not only honor poetry, but also offer an ideal venue for readings.
To kick things off, the Foundation is hosting a two-day open house at its new 61 W. Superior St. address on June 25 and 26. There’s a can’t-miss—and free—line-up of poetry readings, discussions and other events.
The 22,000-square-foot new space will house Foundation offices, and includes an exhibition gallery, a multipurpose space for the spoken word, a public garden and a home for a 35,000-volume non-circulating collection that’s currently in storage. But the environmentally sustainable building doesn’t just house poetry – the architecture is actually inspired by how people read poetry.
Architect John Ronan said in a statement that poetry isn’t always immediately clear on first reading, and the building is also designed to “engage the public’s curiosity and unfold in stages.” That philosophy appears in details like the entryway, which takes visitors through a garden to help mediate between public and private spaces.
The open house showcases some of the biggest names in poetry, from children’s favorite Jack Prelutsky to Elizabeth Alexander, who read at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Other noteworthy events include a talk on Saturday, June 25, at 12 p.m. by Ronan, who will discuss designing and building the space, and a conversation at 1:30 p.m. with Poetry Magazine Editors Christian Wiman and Don Share and poets Atsuro Riley and Ange Mlinko. Riley, who published his first book, Romey’s Order, last year, writes in a groundbreaking, percussive style.
On Sunday, June 26, check out a reading at 2 p.m. with Chicago-born poet Sandra Cisneros. Best known for The House on Mango Street, an award-winning novel about a girl coming of age in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, Cisneros explores her Latina identity in poems, novels and essays.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan reads at 5 p.m. Ryan, a strong advocate for education, especially at the community college-level, writes in an accessible style that evokes Emily Dickinson. Rounding out the events on Sunday is a reading at 6:30 p.m. by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Collins’ popular poems examine the everyday, and his wit and style make reading poetry fun.
Check out the full schedule of events and find out more about the Poetry Foundation building online at poetryfoundation.org/openhouse.