Poets House Showcase A Literary Treasure Trove For Modern Bards
With a collection of over 50,000 volumes of poetry books and an impressive panoramic view that overlooks the Hudson River, there are more than enough reasons for any poetry enthusiast to take a trip down to Poets House by Battery Park in New York City.
“Can I die here?” remarked a Poets House patron.
This summer, there is yet another incentive, in the form of the 18th Annual Poets House Showcase, where all the poetry books published in the United States in the past year are on display for the public. This year, there are over 2,000 titles on exhibit, published by both large and small presses, and some by artists’ collectives. The showcase includes chapbooks, which are small booklets of poems, multimedia works, and poetry in other quirky presentations, including as scrolls inserted in cigarette cases.
The showcase includes anthologies, scholarly works, and translated poetry in 26 different languages. Many of the translated texts are presented in both English and the original language, including a translation of Chinese philosopher Lao Zi’s seminal work, “Tao Te Ching” (also spelled Dao De Jing).
Maggie Balistreri, the librarian at Poets House, explained that the showcase is all-inclusive and democratic, intending to include all the poetry that they can find. Poets are also invited to send in their work. The showcase includes first editions of works and those hot off the press, contemporary poetry as well as poetry from earlier periods. Every book is donated by publishers and artists.
“It’s an annual harvest of the field that is poetry,” said executive director of Poets House, Lee Briccetti, who conceived of the idea in the early years of the House’s history. With the books organized by publisher, visitors can see the breadth and diversity of the art, reminding them that poetry is still very much alive. This showcase is a place for poetry lovers to explore a wide range of literature that one cannot find in bookstores, and to expose them to “the different kinds of poetry and find one that’s bound to be right for you,” said Briccetti.
At the same time, Briccetti noted that through the showcase, poets get to be documented into the history of poetry. A large, eclectic crowd of up-and-coming poets showed up at the opening reception of the showcase on June 28. Some were poets who also ran their own reading series, which then developed into a publishing press, like Patricia Carragon’s Brownstone Poets based in Brooklyn, and Rachel Levitsky’s Belladonna Books.
Others like Peter Chelnik and Eugenia Macer-Story are poets and playwrights. Chelnik describes himself as an “American Highway poet,” who was once nominated for the coveted Pushcart Poetry Prize. Macer-Story writes about supernatural phenomena and also composes music for off-off-Broadway musicals.
Susan Maurer published her first e-book of poems called “Perfect Dark” from a Swedish publisher, ungovernable press. Meanwhile, Alan Baxter was at the reception to view the works written by poets from Kairos Poetry Café, a café in Greenwich Village where he is the curator and host of open mics that give poets a space to perform their work, often to music and under “the theme of peace and justice,” Baxter said.
These poets all have their works exhibited at the showcase, which will run from June 28 to July 31. After the showcase, the books will be moved to the library’s growing collection upstairs, which is also open to the public year-long.
Poets House is located at 10 River Terrace, New York, NY. Go to http://www.poetshouse.org/ for more information.