Skip to main content

Poetry

In Focus

“Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change.”
-Amanda Gorman

Woodberry Poetry Room

Nestled in Lamont Library in a room designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, you’ll find the Woodberry Poetry Room, a special collections reading room and audio-visual archive, and a lively literary center at Harvard—free and open to the public.

The Poetry Room, a curatorial division of Houghton Library, features a circulating collection of 20th and 21st century poetry, over 150 literary magazines, and a landmark audio-visual collection featuring recordings from 1933 to the present day.

With over 5,000 recordings on a range of media that span the 20th and 21st centuries, including phonodiscs, magnetic tape (reel to reel and cassette), CDs, DATs, and born digital, the collection is one of the largest and earliest poetry-specific sound archives in the United States.

Visit the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard Library

Emily Dickinson Collection

What kind of desk did Emily Dickinson sit at when she penned “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”? What did her handwriting look like? What sorts of herbs and flowers did the poet preserve in her fabled Herbarium?

The Houghton Library’s Emily Dickinson Collection is the largest in the world. It preserves more than 1,000 handwritten autograph poems; some 300 letters; the writing table and chair from her bedroom in Amherst, where she wrote much of her poetry; and the family library, including the poet’s Bible, and books by the Brontës, the Brownings, George Eliot, Emerson, Shakespeare, and more.

Explore the Emily Dickinson Collection

[right] Emily Dickinson’s writing desk and chair in the Emily Dickinson Room in Houghton Library. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
[left] Pressed plants from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium, 1839-1846 (SEQ. 30).

The Listening Booth

The Listening Booth is a digital audio archive featuring a selection of recordings from the Woodberry Poetry Room’s audio visual collection.

Listen to poems, lectures, and readings from Ezra Pound, Elizabeth Bishop, W.H. Auden, E.E. Cummings, Jacques Derrida, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Audre Lorde, Anne Carson, Jorge Luis Borges, Anais Nin, Ralph Ellison, Wallace Stevens, Claudia Rankine, Adrienne Rich, T.S. Eliot, and many others.

Visit the Listening Booth to explore recordings

[Right] Harvard Vocarium disc: T. S. Eliot Reading His Poems (1933). [Left] 1950 Library Journal Photographs of Poetry Room and Lamont Forum Room. Both photographs by Christina Davis, courtesy of the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard University.

Selections from the Listening Booth

T.S. Eliot’s Earliest Harvard recordings

Listen to a selection of poems, read by the author, from Harvard Woodberry Poetry Room’s archives.

Transcripts

In celebration of the Woodberry Poetry Room’s 90th anniversary, the T.S. Eliot estate has granted Harvard permission to make Eliot’s earliest known poetry recordings available to the public. This includes a reading originally released on the Harvard Vocarium label in 1933 and later compiled in 1951 (the playlist below), and a complete live reading Eliot gave at Sanders Theatre in 1947 (available on Soundcloud).

Transcripts

Hear more poems read by Eliot

Speak, memory

Alaskan poet and Radcliffe fellow Joan Naviyuk Kane shares her dedication to sustaining King Island Inupiaq, her Native Alaskan language, through poetry.

Read more about Joan in the To Serve Better collection

Douglas Ridloff

Harvard Radcliffe Institute presents Transients: A Poetry Reading and Discussion with Douglas Ridloff, founder and executive director of ASL Slam, a nonprofit organization that creates safe spaces for the Deaf community to thrive in the many modalities of their native language.

Provocation series

As part of the Provocation series, The Woodberry Poetry Room presents poet Cathy Park Hong in conversation with Maggie Nelson (award-winning author of “The Argonauts”) about Hong’s latest work, “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.”

Explore more recordings from the Woodberry Poetry Room on YouTube

Vocarium Reading series

The Woodberry Poetry Room’s Vocarium Reading series presents poets M. NourbeSe Philip (author of “Zong!”) and Cecilia Vicuña (author of “Spit Temple: The Selected Performances” of Cecilia Vicuña). This reading is a part of the Poetry Room’s fall 2020 celebration of pioneering women poets from around the world, in commemoration of the centennial of US women’s suffrage.

Explore more recordings from the Woodberry Poetry Room on YouTube

Books on a bookshelf.

A public classroom

Created and directed by Harvard professor Elisa New in partnership with Harvard, “Poetry in America” is a public television series and multi-platform educational initiative that brings poetry into classrooms and living rooms around the world.

“Poetry in America” offers free online courses for global learners as well as for-credit and professional development courses for undergraduates, graduate students, highly motivated high-school students, and educational practitioners.

Explore “Poetry in America”

0:00
0:00