We wanted to share some pictures taken by Lawrence Schwartzwald at our grand Centennial anniversary event, "100 Years of American Poetry, 1910-2010," at Cooper Union in New York City on Tuesday, October 12th.
Six U.S. Poets Laureate were present—Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Daniel Hoffman, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, and Mark Strand. They read poems of their own and poems by Laureate predecessors—among them Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Frost, Robert Hayden, Anthony Hecht, Archibald MacLeish, and William Jay Smith.
The singer-composer Natalie Merchant sang selections from her phenomenal two-CD collection, "Leave Your Sleep," beautifully orchestrated songs based on classic and lesser known (mostly) nonsense and light verse. Featured were poems by Charles Edward Carryl, Nathalia Crane, e. e. cummings, Rachel Field, and Ogden Nash. Below Natalie Merchant and in the background poet Nathalia Crane.
Maria Tucci concluded the evening with a reading of Robert Frost's majestic and heartbreaking "A Servant to Servants" from his debut volume, North of Boston, first published in England by Robert Nash in 1912, when Frost was 40, living with his family in the English countryside, and becoming so close to and so encouraging of the poet and critic Edward Thomas.
After the event, which filled the 900-seat hall, a benefit reception was held at the home of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz, Jr, , catered by poet Marie Ponsot's son, the marvelous cook Christopher Ponsot. Christopher shared his favorite image of his mother from his childhood: Marie braiding her hair with her left hand and typing with her right hand at the dinning room table, anxious to get something done before taking her brood to school and heading to Queens College, where she taught for more than 30 years.
Given these difficult times, our financial goals were modest, but we doubled the figure projected, and we're enormously grateful to the poets, to Natalie Merchant and the guitarist and cellist who accompanied her so brilliantly, and to Maria Tucci, whose galvanizing performance emboldens us to start planning for an evening of Frost's great dramatic poems for fall, 2011.