2nd Annual Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival

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Audience at one of the readings

The crowd listens intently at the Poetry Pavilion. Photo: Jim Saah

Strains of formal and free verse filled the crisp autumn air, and audiences listened to masters and emerging artists, inside the NEA-sponsored Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival. For the second straight year, poetry was featured at the festival and the Arts Endowment sponsored its roster of artists in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The fourth annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by Mrs. Laura Bush, was held on the National Mall in Washington, DC on October 9th.

The Poetry Pavilion featured 12 poets reading from their collections and discussing their work. The poets came from across the country, and represented diverse poetic styles: Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, R. S. Gwynn, H. L. Hix, Suji Kwock Kim, Timothy Murphy, Linda Pastan, Benjamin Sáenz,William Jay Smith, and Natasha Trethewey. The day's special guest was Ted Kooser, the newly appointed US Poet Laureate. "It's like being home when you read," his poetry, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey has said. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia hosted the Poetry Pavilion, and read selections of classic American poetry with David Lehman, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, which Lehman initiated in 1988.

Chairman Gioia also said, "Poetry is our most concise, memorable, and expressive way of using words. At the most profound moments in our lives - births, weddings, deaths, and funerals - people turn to poetry to find language strong enough to bear the weight of their experiences. To recognize the importance of poetry in our culture, the NEA is proud to support a special Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival."