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The Woodberry Going Strong at 80

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Poet Jean Valentine took part in a reading that marked the start of the Woodberry Poetry Room’s 80th season.


February 28, 2011 – The Woodberry Poetry Room launched its 80th season this month with readings by award winning writers Jean Valentine and Geri Doran. Valentine, a National Book Award winner who first recorded her work at Harvard in 1965, and Doran, recipient of the Walt Whitman Award for her book Resin, read to a full house in Houghton’s Edison and Newman Room. 

Poetry Room curator Christina Davis, recipient of the 2009 Witter Bynner Fellowship and an author in her own right (Forth A Raven 2006), welcomed Valentine and Doran, and described their work as among the most compelling in contemporary poetry.

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“Theirs is a poetry that cuts through the bluster and irony and verbiage and gimmicks to create work that acts quietly and steadfastly against all feigning,” Davis said.

The Woodberry Poetry Room plays a vital role as an active literary center through a wide range of programs, including the popular Reel Time series (an acoustical journey through the audio archives), Recording Sessions at the Woodberry, Woodberry Works-in-Progress (a program that offers attendees an opportunity to engage with artists and scholars in the midst of creating significant works) and the Poet’s Voice Reading Series. Since 1931, the Poetry Room has played a critical role not only in representing the work of past poets, but in recording and disseminating work of the present and future artists. Inaugurated with a groundbreaking 1930 recording of T.S. Eliot, the Poetry Room’s audio collection today stands as one of the preeminent audio archives in the United States.

This season features a rich array of poets offering readings, workshops, conversations & seminars, including  John Ashbery, Steve Burt, Christian Hawkey, Brian Henry, Paul LeGault, Ron Padgett, Kristin Prevallet, Don Share, Jean Valentine, Helen Vendler, Keith & Rosmarie Waldrop, Monica Youn and many more.

In the spring, the Poetry Room, Harvard Review and Zoland Poetry will launch the Omniglot Series, which provides creative writers and translators of all levels and languages with an opportunity to explore the imaginative and humanist lessons gained from translation.

Past Poetry Room events have attracted a virtual who’s-who of the literary world, including Matthew Pearl (author of the international bestsellers Dante's Club and Poe's Shadow,) Whiting Award winner Catherine Barnett (author of Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes are Pierced,) Yale Younger Poets Prize winner Maurice Manning (author of Bucolics,) journalist and two-time National Press Club award winner William Powers, AB ' 83, Rome Prize winner and 2008 recipient of the Academy Award in Literature Sarah Manguso (author of Two Kinds of Decay and Siste Viator,) former U.S. poet laureates Robert Pinsky and Charles Simic, Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet James Tate, and National Book Award winners Gerald Stern and Terrance Hayes.