About the Favorite Poem Project

The Favorite Poem Project is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, founded the Favorite Poem Project shortly after the Library of Congress appointed him to the post in 1997.

During the one-year open call for submissions, 18,000 Americans wrote to the project volunteering to share their favorite poems — Americans from ages 5 to 97, from every state, of diverse occupations, kinds of education and backgrounds. From those thousands of letters and emails, we've culled several enduring collections:

Favorite Poem Project Videos
The collection of 50 short video documentaries showcases individual Americans reading and speaking personally about poems they love. The videos have been regular features on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and are a permanent part of the Library of Congress archive of recorded poetry and literature. They have also proven valuable as teaching and learning tools for a range of classrooms and ages. The videos may be viewed on this website. A collection of the videos is also available for purchase on a DVD that's included with the anthology An Invitation to Poetry.

An Invitation to Poetry
The third of the project's anthologies includes a free DVD containing 27 of the project's celebrated video mini-documentaries, described above. The people in the videos, along with the letters and poems in the book, extend a welcoming invitation to rediscover the joy of reading poems. There is also a paperback textbook edition of the book/DVD, created especially for introduction to poetry classes at high school and college levels, with a comprehensive classroom guide provided free to teachers who adopt the book for a course.

Poems to Read
This second anthology emphasizes the pleasure of reading poems. The poems are arranged into chapters that represent some aspect of a life—such as youth, darkness, passion and art. Many of the poems are accompanied by comments from participants in the Favorite Poem Project.

Americans' Favorite Poems
The selections in this anthology, the first of the series, cross oceans and eras, placing ancient poems alongside contemporary poems and offering many poems in translation. Moving, amusing and insightful letters from readers accompany each poem.

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry
The response to the Favorite Poem Project demonstrates the significance of poetry to contemporary Americans, implicitly questioning some received ideas and stereotypes. This book, based on Robert Pinsky’s Tanner Lectures at Princeton University, reflects on the project as evidence of the relation between democratic culture and the art of poetry.

This popular, award-winning website, features an interactive gallery for viewing the Favorite Poem videos and is a growing resource for teachers and communities.

Favorite Poem Archives
The Favorite Poem Project's archives— including original letters, e-mail printouts, and both raw and edited versions of audio and video recordings—are housed by Boston University's Mugar Library, at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. These materials, along with the project's database of nearly 25,000 letters written by American readers, have already proven useful to scholars and researchers, as we hope they will in the future. In addition, final versions of the fifty Favorite Poem Project videos (those available for viewing on this site) are also kept at the Library of Congress Archive of Recorded Poetry & Literature.

In addition to creating these collections, the Favorite Poem Project has been dedicated to strengthening communities through the art of poetry and has developed successful programs for libraries, communities and schools.

The project has inspired more hundreds of Favorite Poem readings in cities and towns across the country. These readings gather individuals from different corners of a single community to share their favorite poems with each other, revealing personal ties to specific poems. One of the pleasant surprises of the project has been how beneficial these readings seem to be for the communities that host them. If you are interested in organizing an event in your community, check out our tips.

With the Boston University School of Education, the project has also hosted five week-long summer poetry institutes for educators. At each institute, elementary, middle and high school teachers attend seminars taught by renowned poets, looking closely at a broad range of poems and into various ways of reading and teaching poetry. Participants also receive valuable classroom materials and take part in workshops with trained lead teachers to develop poetry curricula. Led by Robert Pinsky, the institutes emphasize vocal and personal connections as a starting point for more intense study of poems. Additional faculty have included Frank Bidart, Mark Doty, David Ferry, Louise Glück, Gail Mazur, Heather McHugh and Rosanna Warren. Selections from the lesson plans developed by teachers at the institute are available on this website.

About the FPP | Founding Principles | The First FPP Events