Poetry Fridays: Preserving History

Michele Russo, Poetry Coordinator

How is a poet like a historian?  Do poems need to be factual in order to be true?  How do poems tell the human story differently than any other art form?  How does poetry make the past real and understandable? 

As we head towards Memorial Day—a time when we reflect on historic events—we want to share with you a piece of the Dodge Poetry Program that aims to preserve a piece of history, the Dodge Poetry Archive Project.

Perhaps you’ve visited our YouTube Channel to watch clips from the 2008 and 2010 Festival.  There are some truly magical moments captured there.  Our YouTube Channel represents a tiny fraction of the over 2,500 hours of audio and video recordings captured at Festivals since 1986.  Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, U. S. Poets Laureate, and hundreds of immensely talented poets are captured in readings, interviews, conversations and discussions.  (For a list of some of the poets who appear in the archive, visit www.dodgepoetryarchive.org

Most of the archive footage is currently unedited.  Our long-term goal is to create a Dodge Poetry Archive website with a searchable database of all the events recorded since the 1986 Festival.  No other archive will capture twentieth and twenty-first century poets at this scale and quality.  It is an important piece of our shared history—not only the history of poetry, but the history of national and world events told through the poems that reflect them.

We’d love to hear from you about how poetry has shaped your understanding of history.  What have you experienced through poetry that a history textbook or a news report couldn’t contain? How do poets contribute to your understanding of the world?

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