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Poets House
Poets House
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November 13, 2009

From religious ceremonies to children's games, poetry holds a central place in human communities, though some may take it for granted.

In 1985, poet Stanley Kunitz and arts administrator Elizabeth Kray founded Poets House to be a community built around poetry. First housed in an old school house in New York City's SoHo district, they meant it to be "a home for all who read and write poetry." With rising rents pricing Poets House out of SoHo, the organization recently moved to a large rent-free space on the Hudson River, with a lease through 2069.

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL was there for the opening day ceremonies, along with many poets who came to read their work and talk about the importance of having a physical space for poetry in 21st Century America

>>Find out more about the poets in the piece.

Poet Mark Doty expressed the importance of Poets House, "It means a place to think, to meditate, to read, to refresh the spirit in the way that poetry can. And it seems to me that if New York City ever needed a place of respite, it needs it now."

Stanley Kunitz
Serving twice as Poet Laureate of the United States, Stanley Kunitz was an influential poet and tireless advocate for the form, remaining active in the poetry community as a writer, activist, and mentor to young poets until his death, at the age of 100, in 2006.

His published poetry spans much of the 20th century, from his first book INTELLECTUAL THINGS, in 1930, to PASSING THROUGH: THE LATER POEMS, NEW AND SELECTED, in 1995. His last book was published on his 100th birthday, THE WILD BRAID: A POET REFLECTS ON A CENTURY IN THE GARDEN, with Genine Lentine, featuring photographs by Marnie Crawford Samuelson.

You can learn more about Stanley Kunitz on the Poets House Web site, and at the Poetry Foundation Web site, where you can read poems by Stanley Kunitz as well as memorials written for him by other poets.

Related Media:
W.S. Merwin
On the heels of winning this year's Pulitzer prize for poetry, W.S. Merwin joins Bill Moyers for a wide-ranging conversation about language, his writing process, the natural world, and the insights gleaned from a much-lauded career of more than 50 years. W.S. Merwin is the author of 21 volumes of poetry and won his second Pulitzer Prize for his most recent collection, THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS. (June 26, 2009)

Nikki Giovanni
Bill Moyers sits down with renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, whose 27 books have spanned the themes of race, politics, sex and violence. (February 13, 2009)

Robert Bly
Bill Moyers talks with poet Robert Bly about greed in America, divinity and happiness. (August 31, 2007)

Martín Espada
Bill Moyers talks with poet Martín Espada about the power of words to effect social change. (July 20, 2007)

OPoems: Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace
Read excerpts of writings collected from Maxine Hong Kingston's workshops with veterans and their families. (May 25, 2007)

Reading Rumi
Poet Coleman Barks is also known for his translations of the great 13th century Islamic poet and teacher, Jalaladdin Rumi. In 2003, Barks appeared on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, reading three of Rumi's poems. Not only is Rumi's work heard on radio throughout the Arab world, he is a best-selling poet in America.

References and Reading:
Poets House Web Site
Information about Poets House, its programs and upcoming events.

Bill Moyers special from 1999, with poetry readings and interviews from Stanley Kunitz, Mark Doty and Kurt Lamkin, among others.

More About the Poets

Cornelius Eady
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Billy Collins
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Mark Doty
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Marie Howe
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Marie Ponsot
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Philip Levine
Poems, background information and links at the Poetry Foundation.

Bob Holman
Poems, background information and links at his official site.

Reggie Cabico
Several poems available at the Deleware Poetry Review and at

Kurt Lamkin
See him read a poem in Bill Moyers' special FOOLING WITH WORDS, and read an interview with him on PERISCOPE.

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