The First Events

In April 1998, the project saw its official launch with a series of public poetry readings introduced by Robert Pinsky. The five-city launch tour included New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Saint Louis, and Los Angeles.

New York, NY

Library of Congress

Boston, MA

St. Louis, MO

Los Angeles, CA

The White House

Since then, Pinsky has toured the country and has participated in more than twenty Favorite Poem readings in places like Provincetown, Massachusetts; Oxford, Mississippi; Salina, Kansas; Hartford, Connecticut; and in Des Moines, Chicago, Miami, and Seattle.

These events, which were open to the public, announced the project and invited Americans to participate. Each event has reflected the larger project: Americans from all walks of life-including school children and prominent civic figures-read aloud favorite poems, offering brief personal reflections about the poems.

In New York, 60 Minutes co-host Ed Bradley, Geraldine Ferraro, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., musician Suzanne Vega and TV-anchor Mike Wallace read poems alongside an adult-literacy student and high school kids from the Bronx. In Boston, a state senator read Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," a homeless man read Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and a teacher recited Langston Hughes' "My People" in American Sign Language. Even the White House hosted a reading, where President and Mrs. Clinton, along with Robert Pinsky, previous poets laureate Rita Dove and Robert Hass, and audience members-a teacher and student, a minister, a war veteran-each read a favorite poem.

From these experiences, the project compiled suggestions to help organizations plan their own Favorite Poem readings. Since then, the project has facilitated nearly 1000 community reading events across the country-from Glendale, California, to Bettendorf, Iowa, from Anchorage to Albuquerque, in small-town libraries, big-city bookstores, elementary and high schools, even birthday and anniversary parties.