Experiencing Poetry, This Time with Charles Simic: Peabody institute Library           

by Kelley Rae Unger 

Poetry, possibly more than any other literary form, is often best when experienced off the page. Poetry’s power radiates when it is read aloud, listened to, shared and examined with a group, or written and workshopped with fellow writers. As Muriel Rukeyser says, “Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.” Poetry comes from experience. But poetry itself is also an experience. Opportunities to experience poetry are sought after by many, and the Peabody Institute Library strives to create opportunities for community members to do just that. Through writing workshops, discussion groups, classes, and author visits, the library reaches out to the poetry community of the North Shore, offering multiple events each year all free to the public.

This year, the Peabody Institute Library is pleased to announce a very special poetry event, An Evening with Charles Simic,  the Fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States. A poet, essayist, and translator, Simic has been honored with the Frost Medal, the Wallace Stevens Award, a Pulitzer Prize, two PEN Awards for his work as a translator, and a MacArthur Fellowship. The evening is sure to be an exceptional one, and the library is grateful to the M. Theodore Karger Fund and the Peabody Institute Library Foundation for the opportunity to provide this event to the community. (Click here to see a poster for the Simic event.)

The library began to offer regular poetry programming in 2011 with the Groundbreaking Poetry series, a discussion group that reached out to an audience interested in multi-part poetry classes. Taught by local poets and college professors, each weekly meeting focused on a different book chosen from the Academy of American Poets’ “Groundbreaking Books” list. Selections included Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck,” Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Collected Sonnets,” Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “Geography III.” The library provided participants with copies of the selected books to read before the corresponding classes, and the reception to this series was so positive, with class members raving about the professors and forging friendships with each other, that the library has included poetry programming as part of its regular events schedule ever since.

Since the Groundbreaking Poetry series, the library has gone on to offer poetry writing workshops; poetry slams; a “Leaves of Grass” discussion series; and “Get to Know the Festival Poets,” a program now in its second year which introduces participants to poets who will read at the MA Poetry Festival. With these programs, the library provides participants not only with the chance to learn and create with others who share their interests, but with access to instructors who are knowledgeable poets and/or professors. Past instructors have included Carl Carlsen, Jennifer Jean, Claire Keyes, Jacquelyn Malone, January O’Neil, J.D. Scrimgeour, Dan Sklar, and Theoharis C. Theoharis. These programs bring new faces to the library, but most importantly, they offer community members the chance to experience poetry together. 

We hope you will join us for April’s An Evening with Charles Simic. The reading will be held at the Wiggin Auditorium, located at Peabody City Hall, on April 29th at 7 p.m. As with other library events, this one will be offered free to the public, but those interested need to reserve a seat in advance by calling 978-531-0100 ext. 10, or registering online. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the event.

Please keep an eye on the library’s calendar of upcoming events as well. The library offers numerous classes and events, and new members are always welcome. Come experience poetry with us. We think you’ll be glad you did.

Kelley Rae Unger is the Community Relations and Public Programming Coordinator at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, MA. She holds a MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College as well as a BFA in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College. She is the co-author of "Transforming Libraries, Building Communities: The Community-Centered Library." Her passion for both libraries and literature makes her feel very lucky to coordinate poetry events as part of her work at the library.