Favorite Poem Project

Poet laureate Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project was a stroke of genius…. many of the matches between reader and poem defy stereotypes, and all attest to the vital role that poetry plays in more lives than seems possible in a country that appears to pay scant attention to this quiet art form.”Booklist

The Favorite Poem Project is dedicated to celebrating, documenting, and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, founded the Favorite Poem Project shortly after the Library of Congress appointed him to the post in 1997.

During the one-year open call for submissions, 18,000 Americans wrote in to share their favorite poems—Americans from ages 5 to 97, from every state, representing a range of occupations, kinds of education, and backgrounds. From those thousands of letters and emails, we’ve culled several enduring collections: Americans’ Favorite Poems, Poems to Read Aloud, Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry, and An Invitation to Poetry, which comes with a DVD with readings by Americans from all walks of life.

“This landmark publication belongs on the shelves of every library in America.”
—Library Journal, on Americans’ Favorite Poems

Giving Voice to the Audience for Poetry

The Favorite Poem Project is founded on the belief that, contrary to stereotype, Americans do read poetry; that the audience for poetry is not limited to professors and college students; and that there are many people for whom particular poems have profound, personal meaning. When he began the project, Pinsky had a hunch that poetry already had a vigorous presence in American life. The project has sought to document that presence, giving voice to the American audience for poetry.

The project has collected dozens of short videos that showcase average Americans reading and speaking personally about poems they love. The videos have been regular features on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and are a permanent part of the Library of Congress archive of recorded poetry and literature. They have also proven valuable as teaching and learning tools for a range of classrooms and ages.

Revitalizing Poetry in the Classroom

With the Boston University School of Education, the Favorite Poems Project conducts week-long summer poetry institutes for educators. At each institute, K–12 teachers attend seminars taught by Pinksy and other renowned poets, where they look closely at a broad range of poems and discuss various ways of reading and teaching poetry. Participants also receive valuable classroom materials and take part in workshops with trained lead teachers to develop poetry curricula.

The “For Teachers” section of the project website offers a selection of lesson plans developed by teachers over many years to help others create poetry-focused curricula. Lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school teachers include such wide-ranging topics as Poetry Circle, Students as Editors, Poetry and Loss, and Poetry: Why Bother?!

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