Chicago’s Place for Poetry

June 27, 2011

In a fast-paced world where the attention of young and old alike is being captured by our small electronic devices, it might seem like something as simple and “archaic” as a poem might might be deemed as irrelevant. But my visit to the Poetry Foundation’s new building in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, reminded me that poetry is not just relevant, but very much alive.

The 22,000 square foot building is only the third stand-alone building dedicated to poetry in the United States. Designed by John Ronan, the building was made possible by a financial gift from pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly.

As I toured the building during the weekend’s open house, I felt a sense of admiration and inspiration. I’m no architectural expert, but I was struck by the bright, clean interior which looked out into the garden. The building’s 30,000 volume (non-lending) library also filled me with a sense of fascination and reminded me of the great deal of poetry I have yet to explore and experience.

While the Poetry Foundation has been around since 1912 and publishes Poetry, the oldest monthly devoted to verse, I’m excited about the ways that poetry is being celebrated and introduced to new audiences: podcasts on the Poetry Foundation website, performances in the 125-seat auditorium and a free app for the iPhone (available at the iTunes store). I’ve also been recently drawn to poetry on Twitter (search Twitter using the #micropoetry hashtag). It’s also worth noting that the Poetry Foundation’s new building will make a great lunchtime diversion for office workers and tourists alike.

What’s your take…is poetry relevant to you? Describe some of the ways that poetry has influenced you and name some of your favorite poets.